Sterling's girlfriend admitted to recording him without his knowledge because she was considering quitting her job with him and wanted to have leverage to protect herself. "Somehow" her friend got a copy of the recording and sold it to TMZ. She's a parasite and so are her friends, the new cars and jewelry weren't enough so she recorded him making racial comments so she could extort him for more, but her friend beat her to the money.
None of this makes what Sterling said right, but it does concern me that these recordings were allowed to be aired and used against him without his consent. This case is no longer about Sterling, as he's not defendable but it is about one's expectations to rights of privacy.
If one can't expect privacy even in their own home, then I think we've really lost the guiding principles of what our founding fathers gave their lives for and our military risk their lives to preserve. This combined with PA's Supreme court decision which states that police officers no longer require a warrant to search a vehicle that is stopped and immigration check points that are 50 miles from US borders are just additional steps in us having no more freedom than those in communist countries.
I don't think this really has anything to do with Sterling's rights. It's not like anybody is trying to prosecute him or arrest him based on illegally obtained information. The NBA (a private entity that, although not one person, also has rights) just doesn't want to associate with him anymore. It's like the business with the "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone" sign on the door. Or last weekend, there was a story about Ben Affleck getting barred from playing blackjack at the Hard Rock casino. He didn't do anything illegal, he just counted cards and played too well for their tastes, so they told him to go away. That was perfectly within their rights.
Heck, the NBA could have (and frankly, should have) disassociated themselves with Sterling long ago. Long before these tapes ever came out. They would have technically had less "evidence" to do so than they do now, yet still been within their rights to do so.
The thing you mention about PA police officers, now that's a whole different story. But this Sterling situation bears no resemblance, IMO.