LOS ANGELES — Donald Sterling has been known to heckle his own team from the center-court seat where he has sat for decades, whether with his now-estranged wife or women young enough to be his granddaughters.
Former Los Angeles Clippers say the owner would barge into the locker room to berate players, offer awkward praise or — according to testimony in a lawsuit filed by his fired general manager — tell guests to check out his players’ “beautiful black bodies.”
The NBA’s longest-tenured owner is among the least successful in basketball history. He has watched the Clippers became a profitable punch line, compiling the worst record in North American pro sports during his first quarter-century in charge.
He has fired loyal coaches, waged court battles with long-serving executives and publicly seethed when players didn’t want to stay with the team.
And that’s only what Sterling does when the world can see him.
Opponents say the racially incendiary remarks attributed to Sterling and leaked to TMZ last weekend publicly show a side of the 80-year-old real-estate mogul that has been ignored and rationalized for years.
“It put a smile on my face that finally he would be unable to deny the racist allegations against him,” said Carl Douglas, a lawyer who represented former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor in a lawsuit against Sterling.
“This is a guy who, as the owner, sits courtside at the half-court line,” Douglas added. “No other owner sits like that. He has an ego the size of the Grand Canyon.”
Sterling has faced extensive federal charges of civil rights violations and racial discrimination in business, making shocking race-related statements in sworn testimony before reaching multimillion-dollar settlements. He has also been sued for sexual harassment by former employees.