May 21, 2014
V. Stiviano had grown accustomed to being the glamorous companion of Donald Sterling, the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Once a catering truck operator from Boyle Heights, now she lived in a house Sterling bought her, drove a red Ferrari that he gave her and sat courtside at Staples Center.
In early April, though, their relationship became strained. Sterling’s wife, Shelly, had sued Stiviano in March, charging that the 31-year-old had extracted four luxury cars, $240,000 in cash and the $1.8-million house from her 80-year-old husband.
Shelly Sterling also put a lien on the house that her husband had given Stiviano. Six days later, on April 9, Stiviano got a text from a Clippers employee: Donald Sterling had ordered the tickets, parking pass and luxury suite access he had given her for that night’s game to be sold.
Stiviano texted that it didn’t matter — another regular had given her tickets. The employee texted back: “Mr. Sterling said to let me know if you need anything. We don’t want to have any issues at the game.”
Stiviano responded: “No tell Mr. Sterling that I don’t need anything nor do I want anything…But thanks for asking. LET THE GAMES BEGAN. . . .”
Two minutes later, Stiviano sent the employee an audio file. In it, Sterling could be heard making disparaging remarks about Magic Johnson, blacks and other minorities, and how he didn’t want Stiviano associating with them publicly.
The world would learn about Sterling’s rant 16 days later, when the celebrity website TMZ posted it. Then came the worldwide condemnation, the threats of player boycotts, the flight of Clippers advertisers. After an investigation, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million, banned him for life from the pro basketball league and asked the other owners to strip Sterling of his team.
On Monday, the NBA lodged formal allegations against Sterling, and presented hundreds of pages of supporting documents that revealed new facets of the scandal: the scramble by Sterling and allies to make the problem go away, one Clippers employee’s rebuffed plea to warn the NBA of the recording, Stiviano’s determination not to be pushed aside.
Those and other allegations, contained in the confidential documents reviewed by The Times, will come center stage on June 3, when the other 29 NBA owners convene in New York City to hold a hearing that could force Sterling to sell the team he has owned for 33 years. Sterling has until May 27 to respond to the allegations.
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