What We Know About Donald Sterling

Clippers owner has a history of alleged racist, sexist behavior.

ByABC News
April 27, 2014, 3:11 PM

April 27, 2014— -- Donald Sterling is no stranger to controversy, even before the an audiotape recording was released purportedly of the Los Angeles Clippers owner making racist remarks in an argument with a woman.

Sterling has owned the team since 1981, making him the longest tenured owner in the NBA, and during that time has faced lawsuits and raised outrage over comments and his "unconventional behavior." This is not the first time he has been accused of racism.

The recording, released by TMZ on Friday, in which a man said to be Sterling asks a woman identified as his girlfriend, V. Stiviano (who is part black), not to publicly associate with African Americans even drew comment from President Obama.

The president called it "incredibly offensive," echoing the reactions of many NBA players and fans.

Oddly enough, Sterling had been scheduled to receive a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP next month, but the organization announced it is now withholding the honor from the longtime donor.

Born Donald Tokowitz in 1933, the son of immigrant parents, Sterling grew up in the low-income neighborhood of Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles.

He attended public schools and eventually Southwestern Law School, which he paid for by working as a salesman at a furniture shop, where he would meet and marry the owner's daughter, Rochelle. The pair have been married for over 50 years and have three children together.

When he was in his 20s, he changed his surname to Sterling; a name he believed people would have "confidence" in, a former coworker told Los Angeles magazine.

Sterling, who is Jewish, began his career a personal injury and divorce lawyer in 1961, and gradually moved into real estate where he amassed his fortune, which Forbes estimates to be $1.9 billion.

He acquire the San Diego Clippers in 1981, paying $12.7 million for the team. Three years later, the team moved to LA, and despite its historically poor performance, is now valued at $430 million.

During his time as the owner of the franchise, there have been numerous reports of eccentric behavior and lawsuits, most of which were settled privately, including sexual harassment cases like the one brought against Sterling in 1996 by a former employee named Christine Jaksy.

Although the LA chapter of the NAACP, which Sterling donates to, handed Sterling his first award in 2009, the controversial decision came amid accusations of racism in a suit brought against him by former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor.

Sterling's attorneys denied the allegations in Baylor's discrimination suit, which claimed, among other things, that Sterling repeatedly told him his team was fielding "poor black boys from the South ... playing for a white coach." The case was later thrown out by a jury in 2011.

That same year, Sterling settled a race-based housing discrimination suit filed by the Justice Department for $2.7 million. Earlier in 2003, he was also involved in another federal suit in which he was accused of unfairly evicting minorities from his properties.

A sworn testimony by his property supervisor in the case alleged Sterling made racially charged comments against black people and Mexicans including, saying that "blacks in this building, they smell, they're not clean." The case was resolved in a private settlement in 2005, according to ESPN.

The NBA said it was investigating the latest allegations of racism made on the tape.

On Saturday, Clippers president Andy Roeser made a statement on Sterling's behalf, which did not confirm or deny the recording's authenticity, but maintained that the sentiments expressed are "not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings."