Donald Sterling cites Kobe Bryant’s homosexual slur in legal response to NBA

FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2011 file photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling watches the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling responded to the NBA's attempt to oust him on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, arguing that there is no basis for stripping him of his team because his racist statements were illegally recorded "during an inflamed lovers' quarrel in which he was clearly distraught." (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok, File)

FILE – In this Dec. 19, 2011 file photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling watches the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling responded to the NBA’s attempt to oust him on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, arguing that there is no basis for stripping him of his team because his racist statements were illegally recorded “during an inflamed lovers’ quarrel in which he was clearly distraught.” (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok, File)

It turns out Magic Johnson is not the only Laker that Donald Sterling has criticized.

The Clippers’ embattled owner also took issue with Kobe Bryant’s homosexual slur uttered four years ago during a regular-season game that earned him a $100,000 fine, an incident Sterling argues proves worse than the racially disparaging comments he made on an audio tape. That prompted NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to issue a life-time ban and a $2.5 million fine. Sterling also argued his comments made to his companion V. Stiviano wer not racially charged and that they stemmed more from envy that she brought black friends to Clippers games.

“Sterling was engaged in a lovers’ tiff stemming from his jealous reaction to Ms. Stiviano’s statement that she was going to “bring four gorgeous black guys to the game,” Sterling’s lawyers wrote in their legal response to the NBA. “Mr. Sterling’s ego was obviously bruised by this remark suggesting that she was cavorting with younger, “gorgeous” men. It’s facially ludicrous that what Mr. Sterling said in these circumstances could produce the equivalent of a death penalty while Kobe Bryant called a referee a [homosexual slur] on national television sustaining only a modest $100,000 fine.”

After receiving his 15th technical foul of the 2010-11 season, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant sat down on the bench and directed a gay slur toward referee Bennie Adams. The TNT telecast captured Bryant’s outburst that entailed hitting his seat, throwing a towel and then uttering a homophobic slur. Bryant initially insisted those comments were simply in the heat of the game and were not meant as a homophobic remark. Later, Bryant frequently apologized for the incident and has even chastised a fan on Twitter for using such language.

Sterling’s issue with Bryant’s behavior serves as one example in which his representatives cite other in the NBA exhibiting culturally insensitive behavior that prompted consequences far less severe than what the Clippers owner received.

Magic owner Rich Devos donated $100,000 to the National Organization of Marriage, a group that advocates against marriage equality. The NBA did not react to that nor to Jason Collins’ revelation that at least one opposing player made disparaging remarks surrounding homosexuals shortly after he became the first openly gay NBA player to compete in a game. Former Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal also mocked former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming in a fake Chinese accent: “Tell Yao Ming, ‘ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh.” All parties, ranging from O’Neal, forner Lakers coach Phil Jackson and even Yao himself classified the incident as a joke. The NBA did not react, either.

“Mr. Sterling did not deny that the words he uttered were “stupid, foolish, [and] uneducated,” his legal counsel wrote. “But he also said—in a portion of the interview far less quoted in the media—that when “you get upset you say things.” It is beyond dispute to anyone who actually listened to the recording (and not just read the transcript) that Mr. Sterling was distraught—indeed, in tears— during the conversation. While this of course does not justify what Mr. Sterling said, it should be a mitigating factor because
everyone has uttered words in the heat of an argument they later regretted; this is part of being human.”

Nonetheless, the NBA still plans to have a hearing on June 3 in which the league’s Board of Governors will hold a vote on Sterling. Under the NBA constitution, the league needs a 3/4 majority to strip Sterling from his ownership.


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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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