The Sordid Life Of Clippers Owner Donald Sterling

Just in time for the lottery, ESPN The Magazine has a look-see at the walking abomination known as Donald Sterling, Clippers owner and a man of discerning taste. Dislikes: blacks, Mexicans, children. Likes: Koreans, blowjobs.

The last one, at least, is old news. But The Mag's always excellent Peter Keating also got his hands on depositions from a discrimination lawsuit brought in 2003 against the real-estate mogul by 19 tenants and the Housing Rights Center, a case that prefigured the more recent volley of charges that Sterling is not exactly the most racially enlightened guy around. The picture that emerges isn't pretty.

Some highlights, such as they are (the story's not online):

"JUST EVICT THE BITCH." It was 2002, and Donald Sterling was talking to Sumner Davenport, one of his four top property supervisors, about a tenant at the Ardmore Apartments. Already the largest landowner in Beverly Hills, Sterling had recently acquired the Ardmore as part of his move to extend his real estate empire eastward toward Koreatown and downtown LA. As he did, Sterling "wanted tenants that fit his image," according to testimony Davenport gave in a discrimination lawsuit brought against Sterling in 2003 by 19 tenants and the nonprofit Housing Rights Center.

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Cultivating his image, Davenport said, meant no blacks, no Mexican-Americans, no children (whom Sterling called "brats") and no government-housing-subsidy recipients as tenants. So according to the testimony of tenants, Sterling employees made life difficult for residents in some of his new buildings. They refused rent checks, then accused renters of nonpayment. They refused to do repairs for black tenants and harassed them with surprise inspections, threatening residents with eviction for alleged violations of building rules.

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When Sterling first bought the Ardmore, he remarked on its odor to Davenport. "That's because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they're not clean," he said, according to Davenport's testimony. "And it's because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day." He added: "So we have to get them out of here." Shortly after, construction work caused a serious leak at the complex. When Davenport surveyed the damage, she found an elderly woman, Kandynce Jones, wading through several inches of water in Apartment 121. Jones was paralyzed on the right side and legally blind. She took medication for high blood pressure and to thin a clot in her leg. Still, she was remarkably cheerful, showing Davenport pictures of her children, even as some of her belongings floated around her.

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Davenport reported what she saw to Sterling, and according to her testimony, he asked: "Is she one of those black people that stink?" When Davenport told Sterling that Jones wanted to be reimbursed for the water damage and compensated for her ruined property, he replied: "I am not going to do that. Just evict the bitch."

Repairs never came. The shower stopped working, and the toilet wouldn't flush; Jones needed to use a plunger and disposed of waste tissue in bags. Kandynce Jones departed the home she loved but that caused her so much grief when she passed away, on July 21, 2003, at age 67.

He wasn't just horrible with his tenants. He demeaned women, too.

But it's the people who work for Sterling and live in his buildings who say they bear the worst of his unconventional behavior. For years he has run semianonymous ads (crude design jobs he reportedly mocks up himself) seeking "hostesses" for Clippers events and his private parties. In a Times ad last summer, Sterling's company solicited "attractive females" to bring a résumé and photo to his address, where employees reviewed their looks. Some of the women who have gone through this process found it humiliating. "Working for Donald Sterling was the most demoralizing, dehumanizing experience of my life," says a hostess from the 1990s who says she helped set up "cattle calls" to find other women to work the job. "He asked me for seminude photos and made it clear he wanted more. He is smart and clever but manipulative. When I didn't give him what he wanted, he looked at me with distaste. His smile was so empty."

In 1996, a former employee named Christine Jaksy sued Sterling for sexual harassment. The two sides reached a confidential settlement, and Jaksy, now an artist in Chicago, says, "The matter has been resolved." But The Magazine has obtained records of that case, and according to testimony Jaksy gave under oath, Sterling touched her in ways that made her uncomfortable and asked her to visit friends of his for sex. Sterling also repeatedly ordered her to find massage therapists to service him sexually, telling her, "I want someone who will, you know, let me put it in or who [will] suck on it."

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Sterling's testimony in another case, this one involving former associate Alexandra Castro, underscores his aggressiveness with women. When Castro, whom Sterling met in Las Vegas at Al Davis' birthday party over Fourth of July weekend in 1999, visited his Beverly Hills office, Sterling later stated under oath that she brought a lab report proving she was HIV-negative, freeing him to continue having unprotected sex with his wife. "The woman wanted sex everywhere," Sterling said. "In the alley, in her car, in the elevator, in the upstairs seventh floor, in the bathroom." And he paid her for it. "Everytime she provided sex she got $500," he testified in 2003. "At the end of every week or at the end of two weeks, we would figure [it] out, and I would, perhaps, pay her then."

"When you pay a woman for sex, you are not together with her," he further testified. "You're paying her for a few moments to use her body for sex. Is it clear? Is it clear?"

Sterling isn't a total racist, to be sure. He has a fine appreciation for Asian culture, for one thing.

"He would tell me that I needed to learn the ‘Asian way' from his younger girls because they knew how to please him," Davenport testified in 2004. Davenport also stated: "If I made a mistake, I needed to stand at my desk and bow my head and say, ‘I'm sorry, Mr. Sterling. I'm sorry I disappointed you. I'll try to do better.' "

Sterling's preference for Asians extended to the people he wanted in his buildings. "I like Korean employees and I like Korean tenants," he told Dean Segal, chief engineer at a Sterling property called the Mark Wilshire Tower Apartments, according to testimony Segal gave in the Housing Rights Center case. And Davenport testified that Sterling told her, "I don't have to spend any more money on them, they will take whatever conditions I give them and still pay the rent … so I'm going to keep buying in Koreatown."

But Mexican culture? Certainly not.

Raymond Henson, head of security at the building, who was standing outside the room, heard what happened next. Sterling, according to Henson's 2004 sworn statement, once again expressed his distaste for Mexicans as tenants, saying, "I don't like Mexican men because they smoke, drink and just hang around the house."

Why Sterling is still around is beyond me. (And, yes, many of the allegations in the story come from lawsuits that have since been settled, one of which resulted in what a judge called "one of the largest [settlements] ever obtained in this type of case." So take with a grain of salt and all that). The NBA, so conscious of its image as a league of miscreant thugs, is nevertheless giving wide latitude to someone behaving far more repulsively than, say, Ron Artest ever did, merely because he happens to own a team. Just evict the bitch.