Donald Sterling Still Planned To Attend Clippers Game After Tape Leaked

ESPN's Ramona Shelburne has the definitive—so far—tick-tock of the release of the Donald Sterling audio and the reactions from Clippers players and the NBA. You'll want to read it, not least for the glimpse of how Doc Rivers handled it when the news of Sterling's lifetime ban came down.

Sterling's reaction to the controversy was baffled and baffling—it appears that he never quite grasped how bad this was going to turn out for him. Sterling was still planning to attend Sunday's game in Oakland until Adam Silver told him not to.

Regarding the Clippers' Saturday statement—the one that said the tape might have been inauthentic, and that Stiviano was being sued for embezzlement (which is false)—team president Andy Roeser throws Sterling under the bus.

Roeser hired an outside consultant to help craft a statement to respond to the tapes on Saturday. They discussed and weighed three different messages. The first was to cop to everything. Say that Sterling was sick, that he needed help, that he apologized and felt terrible for offending anyone. The second was to dispute the veracity of the tapes, question the motives of the woman on the tapes and why they were released, and argue that what's said on them misrepresents Sterling's true feelings. The third was to say very little except that the team would cooperate with the NBA investigation. Roeser felt the third message was the best option. Sterling did not. They went with defiance, and they stuck Roeser's name on it.

[...]

It was profoundly tone-deaf and widely decried. Rivers was furious that the statement had been attributed to and released by a representative of the organization for which he served as senior vice president of basketball operations. It expressed a position neither he nor any of the people he knew who worked for the Clippers — including, of course, the players — held.

(The PR firm that Roeser hired to craft the statement was Sitrick and Company, which resigned from the Sterling account not long after because of a conflict of interest—it also represents Magic Johnson.)

I'm also especially intrigued by this bit, which puts the release of the tape in the context of the legal battle between Sterling's wife and V. Stiviano. It muddles the question of who leaked the tape, while going a long way toward explaining the timing:

Sterling lavished gifts on Stiviano over their four-year relationship, including a 2013 Range Rover, a 2012 Ferrari and two Bentleys. He paid her rent. He bought her jewelry. And, on March 7 of this year, Sterling's wife, Shelly Sterling, sued her to get it all back.

Stiviano lawyered up. Her attorneys filed a response to the civil suit, asking that the case be dismissed on April 21. Instead, Shelly Sterling's attorneys requested that Stiviano turn over all tapes and recordings made of herself and Sterling. The law compelled her to do so.

Four days later, the tapes surfaced publicly on TMZ.

Shelburne reports that the NBA hired an investigator to meet with Stiviano on Monday (and a mysterious third person, whose voice also appears on the tape). She confirmed that it was legitimate, as did Sterling, who spoke to the investigator by phone. Stiviano also told the investigator that Sterling not only was aware he was being recorded, but had specifically requested it—his memory is going, she claimed, and he wanted her to record all their conversations.

Donald Sterling's dramatic path from entitled ownership to lifetime banishment [ESPN.com]