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Donald Sterling calls NBA's efforts against him 'illegal'

Los Angeles Clippers team owner Donald Sterling watches

Los Angeles Clippers team owner Donald Sterling watches his team play in Los Angeles on Oct. 17, 2010. Credit: AP / Mark J. Terrill

In a 32-page response sent to the NBA yesterday, Donald Sterling called the NBA's effort to force him to sell the Los Angeles Clippers "illegal" and said he will fight the NBA's charges against him.

In the response, which was obtained and put online by USA Today Tuesday night, Sterling's lawyers said that his racist remarks that were recorded and released, leading NBA commissioner Adam Silver to ban him for life, were made during a private conversation and can't be used against him because they were taped illegally under California law.

"A jealous rant to a lover never intended to be published cannot offend the NBA rules," Sterling's attorneys wrote.

In a statement issued Tuesday night by NBA spokesman Mike Bass, the NBA acknowledged receiving responses from both Donald Sterling and his wife Shelly. The statement also said that the league will go ahead with its plan to have its owners meet and vote in New York next week on whether Sterling should be forced to sell the team.

"Should the Board vote to sustain the charge, the Sterling's interests in the Clippers will be terminated and the team will be sold," the league said.

While Sterling may be fighting the charges against him, his wife is saying that she has the authority to sell the team.

Pierce O'Donnell, the attorney for Shelly Sterling, issued a statement confirming "Donald Sterling has authorized Shelly Sterling in writing to negotiate the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, including his 50 percent ownership of the team" and that his client "and the NBA are working cooperatively on the transaction."

Meanwhile, according to Bloomberg News, Bank of America Corp. has been retained to sell the team, two people with direct knowledge of the situation said. The people requested anonymity because the sale process isn't public.

Jim Nash, a managing director at Bank of America, declined to comment.

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