NBA: Sterling saga continues with reported Wednesday hearing

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Shelly Sterling will go to court on Wednesday asking a judge to confirm her authority to sell the Los Angeles Clippers NBA team, The Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday.

The reported hearing before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge is the latest chapter in the Sterling saga, which erupted in April when racially charged remarks that Clippers owner Donald Sterling made to a girlfriend became public and sparked widespread outrage.

With the NBA attempting to strip the Sterling family of the team, Donald Sterling's wife Shelly negotiated a US$2 billion (S$2.5 billion) sale of the club to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, but Donald Sterling this week vowed to fight that sale, and press on with a US$1 billion lawsuit against the NBA.

The Times reported that Shelly Sterling was expected to ask a judge to confirm her position as head of a family trust and therefore authorised to sell the team.

Pierce O'Donnell, attorney for Shelly Sterling, declined to comment on the situation, nor would he confirm plans for a court hearing.

However, Donald Sterling's attorney, Maxwell Blecher, said he had been notified by Shelly Sterling's lawyers that they plan to go to court on Wednesday to clarify who is in control of the trust.

"The understanding we have is that she is going to go in and say that he has cognitive impairment that has prevented him from making decisions," Mr Blecher told The Los Angeles Times. "And that is something we will oppose." Donald Sterling was banned for life and fined US$2.5 million dollars by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after his remarks disparaging black people became public in April.

Mr Sterling has argued that the comments were made in a private conversation recorded without his permission, and since that is illegal in California, cannot be used as a basis for sanctions.

He sued the league in federal court on the same day that Shelly Sterling announced she had agreed terms on the blockbuster sale to Ballmer.

That sale agreement, which has the backing of the NBA but must still be approved by the league's board of governors, includes a provision in which Shelly Sterling indemnified the league against "lawsuits from others, including from Donald Sterling".

The provision means that the Sterling family trust would pay any damages awarded in such a suit, so, as Mr Silver put it this week "in essence, Donald is suing himself and he knows that." Donald Sterling had briefly said he would drop his lawsuit against the NBA and give his blessing to the sale, but on Monday made an about face.

"The action taken by Adam Silver and the NBA constitutes a violation of my rights and fly in the face of the freedoms that are afforded to all Americans," Mr Sterling said through attorney Bobby Samini on Monday. "I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights."

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