The NBA charged Donald Sterling on Monday with damaging the league and its teams with his racist comments, setting up a June 3 hearing after which owners could vote to terminate his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Sterling a 'wreck'

The former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP said Monday that Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was a "wreck" and almost crying after a television interview in which Sterling derided Magic Johnson as a role model.

Leon Jenkins told The Associated Press that he called Sterling after last week's interview aired and said Sterling's comments about Johnson took away from the apology he was making for earlier racist comments. Sterling was "really distraught" and hoped the public would forgive him, Jenkins said.

"I said, `Once you got off focus and started talking about Magic Johnson, whatever reconsideration some people would have, you kind of lost it,"' Jenkins recalled.

Jenkins resigned as chapter president May 1 following outrage over a decision he later reversed to honor Sterling with a lifetime achievement award. It would have been Sterling's second award — the chapter also honored him in 2009. The same year Sterling agreed to pay $2.7 million to settle a U.S. Justice Department suit alleging that he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics and blacks.

Jenkins said he stepped down from his post to ensure the local NAACP would not be harmed by the swirling controversy. He's known Sterling for 10 years and has been active in the local NAACP chapter for 23 years. He'd planned to honor Sterling because of plans to create a multimillion-dollar endowment at Los Angeles Southwest College, which has a majority African-American student population.

"I thought if he was going to give a lifetime endowment, he should get a lifetime award," Jenkins said. "If this had happened a month later, Southwest would have had an endowment, and I would have been a hero ... Talk about bad luck. It couldn't have been any worse."

Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million. The league charged Sterling on Monday with damaging the league and its teams with racist comments he made to a friend in a recorded phone conversation that became public. Team owners are moving forward with a vote on whether to terminate his ownership of the Clippers. Sterling has until May 27 to respond.

A message on the office voicemail of Sterling's lawyer, Maxwell Blecher, said he would have no comment now.

"Here's the thing, if you look at the totality of the sports franchises in the Southern California area, he gave away more tickets to the minority community so little kids would come to the games than any other franchise I know. I took that as a plus," Jenkins said. "He also donated a lot more money to inner city programs."

Jenkins said Sterling's comments were "very, very ugly statements" but also said "I'm not really sure we have all the facts."

"You can never under any circumstances defend what he said," Jenkins said. "But there are some issues there like his right to privacy, are these private thoughts in a private home."

He urged people to also not forget about issues like crime and unemployment that impact the African-American community.

"I think a true racist deserves everything he gets," Jenkins said, but he wouldn't say if he considered Sterling a "true racist." He said: "I don't know, I don't know. You have to look at the body of work."

And he added, "Where's the forgiveness here?" before pausing — "but then again, you've got to show redemption first."

The Associated Press

The league also said the banned owner has engaged in other conduct that has impaired its relationship with fans and merchandising partners.

"All of these acts provide grounds for termination under several provisions of the NBA constitution and related agreements," the league said in a statement.

Sterling was banned for life and fined $2.5 million US by Commissioner Adam Silver after the release of a recording in which he made racist remarks. He has until May 27 to respond to the charge, and the right to appear at the hearing and make a presentation before the board of governors. He has the right to a lawyer at the hearing, but strict courtroom rules of evidence would not apply.

Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, the board chairman, will preside over the hearing, which is planned for two days before the start of the NBA Finals. If three-fourths of the other 29 owners vote to sustain the charge, Sterling will be forced to sell the team he has owned since 1981.

Silver has said he is confident he has the votes.

Sterling told a female friend, V. Stiviano, not to bring blacks to Clippers games during their conversation that was recorded. Sterling specifically mentioned Magic Johnson, then criticized the NBA Hall of Famer again as a poor role model during a recent interview with CNN.

"Among other things, Mr. Sterling disparaged African-Americans and 'minorities'; directed a female acquaintance not to associate publicly with African-Americans or to bring African-Americans to Clippers games; and criticized African-Americans for not supporting their communities," the NBA said.

The league also charged Sterling with issuing a false and misleading media statement about the matter.

Article 13 of the NBA's constitution, which deals with termination of ownership, states that one of the conditions is if an owner fails or refuses "to fulfil its contractual obligations to the Association, its members, players, or any other third party in such a way as to affect the Association or its members adversely."

A number of sponsors suspended their deals with the Clippers in the wake of Sterling's remarks, potentially hurting league revenues, and players have said they would consider refusing to play next season.

"Mr. Sterling's actions and positions significantly undermine the NBA's efforts to promote diversity and inclusion; damage the NBA's relationship with its fans; harm NBA owners, players and Clippers team personnel; and impair the NBA's relationship with marketing and merchandising partners, as well as with government and community leaders," the league said.

If Sterling does not respond to the charge within five business days, or appear at the hearing, it would be deemed an admission of the "total validity of the charges as presented," according to the constitution.

But even the players who want him out believe Sterling will fight, and his attorney sent a letter to the league last week informing it that Sterling wouldn't be paying the fine.

A message on the office voicemail of Sterling's lawyer, Maxwell Blecher, said he would have no comment now.

Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly, has said she will fight to keep her 50 per cent share of the team even if Donald Sterling is forced to sell, but the league said in its statement that "all ownership interests in the Clippers will be terminated" if the charge is upheld.

Shelly Sterling's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, said he was reviewing the charges.

"Based on our initial assessment, we continue to believe there is no lawful basis for stripping Shelly Sterling of her 50 per cent ownership interest in the Clippers," O'Donnell said in a statement Monday. "She is the innocent estranged spouse. We also continue to hope that we can resolve this dispute with the NBA for the good of all constituencies."