Lawyer comments/Clippers’ response

Here are a few quotes from Elgin Baylor’s lawyers from today’s news conference, followed by the statement released this afternoon by Clippers general counsel Robert H. Platt…

BAYLOR LAWYER CARL DOUGLAS

(on whether there was an attempt to settle before the lawsuit was filed…)
“There was nothing that was said to us that gave us any indication that they were interested in resolving this matter fairly. We were very disappointed by their response.”

(on the lawsuit…)
“I think that the facts speak for themselves. Certainly, Elgin Baylor is an icon in this city. He is a city treasure, and for them to treat Elgin Baylor, after dedicating 22 years of his hard work, his sweat and his tears to this organization, is indeed an abomination.”

(on why the NBA is included in the lawsuit…)
“It’s important to remember that the NBA knows the salaries that are paid to each of the general managers in the league. It is offensive that Elgin Baylor, with 22 years of experience, having been the executive of the year back in 2006, would have been paid a salary that, based on comparable NBA general managers, is a disgrace.”

(on whether a settlement is still possible…)
“We keep the doors of negotiation open … but we aren’t starting this action for the purpose of trying to encourage a settlement. … We will be able to prove everything that is there.”

(more general comments on the lawsuit…)
“Elgin Baylor has not been treated fairly by the team that he gave 22 years of his life. He was given this retirement contract and told to take it or leave it. After 22 years, that’s just not fair, and what we’re going to do is bring justice to Elgin Baylor and his time with the Los Angeles Clippers.”

(on way Baylor stayed with the Clippers despite the alleged poor treatment…)
“One thing to remember about Elgin is, he’s humble, he’s poised, he’s gracious. He’s a team player. It’s not of his nature to rock the boat. He was one of 30 people that held those kinds of jobs. It was his life, working in the city that he loved, and he hoped that with his continued effort, he’d be able to turn the team around and to make them into a winner. Regrettably, he was tossed out before he was given that chance.”

BAYLOR LAWYER ALVIN PITTMAN

(on why the NBA is included in the lawsuit…)
“The NBA is akin to an individual to whom much is given. The NBA regulates the entirety of professional basketball, and yet we ask or expect little of it when it comes to the issue of employment of minorities in executive positions. The NBA will fine people for speech and conduct, but on a significant issue such as discrimination in employment within the executive ranks, minorities can play the game but the NBA the is deaf, blind and mute when it comes to the issue of employment discrimination in the executive ranks. The NBA has a duty to act. It has done nothing. That’s why the NBA is a partner.”

—–

The following is a statement from the Los Angeles Clippers’ General Counsel Robert H. Platt, a partner at the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips:

“Now that they have staged their press conference, it has become even more apparent that the decision to bring the suit was driven by publicity-seeking attorneys hoping to draw attention to themselves. Their false claims carry no weight and have no credibility.

“Elgin Baylor was with the Clippers for 22 years and he received numerous salary increases and was always treated well.

“During Elgin’s tenure, the other NBA teams employed over 125 General Managers with an average tenure of less than five years. In fact, despite the team’s poor draft history and record, Elgin was the NBA’s longest serving General Manager when he chose to resign.

“Elgin rejected the opportunity to continue with the organization as a paid consultant or stay in his current job. People can judge for themselves the results of his performance during his 22 years on the job. We stand by our assertion that Elgin was always treated fairly and honorably.”

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Elgin Baylor’s statement

Here is the full text of the statement Elgin Baylor made to the media today, one day after he filed a lawsuit against the Clippers and the NBA:

“I’m Elgin Baylor. I’m here with my wife, Elaine. I dedicated the last 22 years of my life as a NBA executive, working with the Los Angeles Clippers organization, in the position of executive vice president and general manager. It was a job that I loved.

“Against tremendous odds, I put my heart and soul into that job. Working for Donald Sterling was never easy. I was often forced to work under challenging conditions. The authority granted to me was too limited and restricted, for the position I held. It was like working with one hand tied behind my back, but given the shortage of blacks in the executive roles within the NBA, I felt obligated to hang in there and endure whatever came my way.

“I worked with the Clipper organization, under contract, for only for my first six years, until 1993. After that, it was if I had passed the smell test. For the remainder of my time, I was told I did not need a formal written agreement. Donald Sterling always assured me, whenever I asked about my contract situation and my salary, that I was a lifer, that I would remain a part of the Clipper family until I decided to retire. Sometime before the 2006 season, Clipper president Andy Roeser started harassing me about my age. `Elgin, how old are you?’ he would ask repeatedly. `When are you planning to retire?’

“Two thousand and six was a magical year. The team that I pushed Sterling to assemble made it to the second round of the playoffs, exceeding everyone’s expectation. I was honored, by the Sporting News, to be named the NBA executive of the year. The team’s coach was acknowledged and rewarded with a new, long-term contract worth over $20 million. When I asked Donald Sterling if he was going to take care of me, he said nothing. He offered me nothing. He did nothing. No salary increase, no bonus, nothing. Not only was my salary structure left unchanged, my duties, responsibilities and the little authority that had been a part of my position were further diminished by Sterling and Roeser. Player-personnel meetings were planned and conducted without my knowledge and without inviting me to attend. I was left out of contract negotiations. The job that I loved was slowly being taken away from me and there was never an explanation.

“In 2006, the head coach was secretively given many of my general-manager duties. In 2008, I discovered this while researching an unrelated matter. I stumbled upon the coach’s contract and I saw, for the first time, that most of my duties had been given to him. This past August, I was handed an agreement and told to take it or leave it. Given that I had invested so much into the Clippers and the NBA, I was traumatized by this situation, and today I remain mentally and emotionally devastated.

“In closing, I want to make one thing clear: I did not retire. I had so much more to give. The way I was treated by the NBA and the Clippers was unfair and, in many ways, discriminatory. It was wrong. We are forced to take this action because our efforts to resolve this dispute quietly were essentially ignored. So I look forward to having my day in court. I thank you, and may God bless you.”

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Elgin Baylor suing Clippers, NBA (UPDATED)

Elgin Baylor, the Clippers executive vice president whose 22-year tenure with the club ended in dispute before the season, filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the NBA, the Clippers, owner Donald Sterling and club president Andy Roeser in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday.

The lawsuit maintains that Baylor was “discriminated against and unceremoniously released from his position with the team on account of his age and his race” and that he was “grossly underpaid during his tenure with the Clippers, never earning more than $350,000 per year, when compared with the compensation scheme for general managers employed by every other team in the NBA.”

When reached on his cellphone Wednesday night, Baylor said that his attorneys had advised him not to speak on the matter until today.

His lawyer, Carl Douglas, said that he had been trying to reach an informal settlement with the Clippers for months, but “those talks proved unsuccessful so we were left with no alternative but to file a lawsuit.”

Asked whether they had hoped to avoid a lawsuit, Douglas said, “Given my knowledge and understanding of the way that the Clipper organization operates, we were always hopeful we could resolve things informally but fully expected we’d be forced to file the lawsuit as we did.”

In a statement from their general counsel Robert H. Platt, the team said it “intends to vigorously defend itself against these false allegations and will prevail when all the facts are heard.”

Platt added that he had not yet seen the complaint, but “I can categorically state that the Clippers always treated Elgin fairly throughout his long tenure with the team. Prior to his decision to leave the team last October, Elgin never raised any claims of unfair treatment.

“It’s hard to believe that he would now make these ridiculous claims after the organization stood by him during 22 years and only three playoff appearances. It would be hard to find any sports team that has demonstrated greater loyalty to its general manager.”

The NBA is named in the lawsuit, according to a fax sent by Douglas on Wednesday evening, as “a joint venturer/partner of condoning, adopting and ratifying this discriminatory practice since the league is fully aware of salaries paid to all of the general managers.”

The Web site TMZ.com reported that in the lawsuit, Baylor said that owner Donald Sterling has a “pervasive and ongoing racist attitude” and alleges that Sterling repeatedly referred to the team as “poor black kids” and “wanted a white coach directing the Clippers.”

Sterling has hired 13 head coaches since buying the Clippers in 1981: three of them (Don Chaney, Alvin Gentry and Dennis Johnson) have been black. Current coach and general manager Mike Dunleavy is white.

In 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Sterling, also a real estate mogul, accusing him of favoring Korean tenants and seeking to exclude blacks from his apartment buildings in Los Angeles County.

In November 2005, U.S. District Judge Dale Fisher ordered Sterling to pay nearly $5 million in fees to plaintiffs attorneys in a lawsuit accusing him of discriminating against black and Latino tenants in buildings he owned in Koreatown neighborhoods.

The case was resolved with an undisclosed financial settlement the judge described as “one of the largest ever obtained in this type of case.”

Two weeks earlier, a jury found in Sterling’s favor in a sexual harassment suit filed by a former property manager.

Baylor, 74, who played 14 seasons with the Lakers, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976 and chosen as one of the NBA’s “50 Greatest Players of All Time” during the league’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 1997.

He has been with the Clippers since 1986. He was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year in 2006.

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Elgin Baylor suing Clippers, NBA

Elgin Baylor, the Clippers executive vice president whose 22-year tenure with the club ended in dispute before this season, is holding a press conference Thursday morning to announce the filing of an employment discrimination lawsuit against the NBA, the Clippers, owner Donald Sterling and club president Andy Roeser, according to a fax sent by his lawyer, Carl Douglas on Wednesday evening.

The lawsuit, filed today in L.A. Superior Court, maintains that Baylor was “discriminated against and unceremoniously released from his position with the team on account of his age and his race” and that he was “grossly underpaid during his tenure with the Clippers, never earning more than $350,000 per year, when compared with the compensation scheme for general managers employed by every other team in the NBA.”

When reached on his cellphone Wednesday night, Baylor said that his attorneys had advised him not to speak on the matter until Thursday morning.

Carl Douglas, Baylor’s attorney, said that he had been trying to reach an informal settlement with the Clippers for months, but “those talks proved unsuccessful so we were left with no alternative but to file a lawsuit.”

Asked whether they had hoped to avoid a lawsuit, Douglas said, “Given my knowledge and understanding of the way that the Clipper organization operates, we were always hopeful we could resolve things informally but fully expected we’d be forced to file the lawsuit as we did.”

Roeser said he needed to review the specifics of the case before commenting.

The NBA is named in the lawsuit, according to Douglas’ fax, as “a
joint venturer/partner of condoning, adopting and ratifying this discriminatory practice since the league is fully aware of salaries paid to all of the general managers.”

A report on TMZ.com has further details of the lawsuit, in which Baylor reportedly claims he was told to “induce African American players to join the Clippers, despite the Clippers’ reputation of being unwilling to fairly treat and compensate African American players.”

Baylor also reportedly says the owner, Donald Sterling, has a “pervasive and ongoing racist attitude.”

Douglas said that he did not want to add anything to what he wrote in the fax received Wednesday night, but would elaborate further on Thursday morning.

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Randolph upgraded to questionable

Just got word Zach Randolph has been upgraded to questionable for tonight’s game against Miami.

If he plays, I doubt it would be for very long.

I’d also caution that if he plays, the most important thing to look for will be how his knee feels the next day. The way Zach described this to me, he’s trying to test things out this week.

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Gordon wins Rookie of the Month honors

Eric Gordon earned a very well-deserved Western Conference rookie of the month honor today.

Gordon, who edged out Minnesota’s Kevin Love for the honor, ranked first among rookies in scoring for the month (21.9 ppg), fourth in assists (4.1 apg) and first in minutes (41.1 mpg).
In addition, the first-year guard led all Western Conference rookies in free
throw percentage (.907 %). Gordon scored a career-high 41 points (13-28 FG,
6-6 FT) vs. the Thunder on Jan. 23, the most points ever scored by a
Clippers rookie, besting Al Thornton’s 39-point performance on March 29,
2008.

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