Donald Sterling Sues TMZ For "Eavesdropping" on Racist Remarks

The former Clippers owner claims his ex-mistress V. Stiviano leaked their conversation to the website.
Associated Press
V. Stiviano, Donald Sterling

Nearly a year to the day since the Clippers sold for a record price, former owner Donald Sterling has sued TMZ for the release of the recording that resulted in his lifetime ban from the NBA.

Sterling filed suit Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court against the website and his former mistress V. Stiviano, who he claims recorded a September 2013 conversation between them and leaked it to TMZ.

In the recording, which TMZ published in April 2014, Sterling tells Stiviano not to "broadcast" her friendships with black people, including Magic Johnson, who appeared with Stiviano on her Instagram. "It bothers me a lot if you want to broadcast that you are associating with black people," says Sterling in the recording. “Don't put [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me, and don't bring him to my games."

The recording led NBA commissioner Adam Silver to ban Sterling from the league for life and fine him $2.5 million. Then with the NBA looking to force a sale of the team, Sterling's wife Shelly secured an offer to buy from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that set off a memorable courtroom battle in July 2014. Following the court's ruling in her favor, Shelly sold the team to Ballmer for a league record of $2 billion.

Now Sterling is going after Stiviano and TMZ for the publication of the recording. He alleges Stiviano is behind the tape: "Unbeknownst to Sterling at the time, Stiviano had a policy and practice of regularly recording conversation between herself and Sterling," reads the complaint.

He claims violations of California's unfair business practices laws and penal codes 630-637, which prohibit "eavesdropping" via electronic devices.

The penal codes permit plaintiffs who claim they've been illicitly recorded to seek $5,000 in statutory damages or three times the amount of their actual damages. If Sterling thinks the recording is behind his fine and the loss of his team, he’ll likely seek a whole lot more than $5,000.

The Hollywood Reporter has requested comment from reps for TMZ and Stiviano.

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