The wife of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling says she wants to maintain ownership of the team despite her husband’s lifetime ban from the NBA.
Shelly Sterling told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that she believes she is legally entitled to the team and will try to hold on to the franchise. She said she has retained a law firm to pursue that goal. The self-described “die-hard” fan of the Clippers maintained that the sanctions against her husband do not apply to “me or my family.”
The Times, citing an unnamed NBA official who called Shelly Sterling a “wild card,” reports that NBA owners were unaware of her desire to become sole owner of the team when they began the process of throwing out her husband. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life, vowed to force a sale of the team and fined him $2.5 million after an audio tape published by TMZ depicted him making racist comments.
Shelly Sterling distanced herself from her husband shortly after the recording leaked. “Our family is devastated by the racist comments made by my estranged husband. My children and I do not share these despicable views or prejudices,” Shelly Sterling told TMZ on April 27. “We will not let one man’s small-mindedness poison the spirit of the fans and accomplishments of the team in the city we love. We are doing everything in our power to stand by and support our Clippers team.”
The league and the fans hoping for a new start have rallied behind others who have expressed interest in buying the Clippers, including Oprah Winfrey and Magic Johnson. Some believe that ownership by any member of the Sterling family would probably drive advertisers away from the franchise and even provoke a boycott from players and fans.
“I think in the eyes of the players and the coaching staff and the basketball staff, the page has been turned, and I think it would be difficult to turn it back,” broadcaster Ralph Lawler, the Clippers’ longest-serving employee, told the Times.
Shelly Sterling has also been accused of making racist statements. In the deposition for the 2009 settlement in which her husband faced allegations that he discriminated against building tenants based on their race, tenant Darrell Rhodes quoted Shelly Sterling as having said, “Who do you think you are, you black [expletive].”
In another deposition that same year, an employee of Sterling’s, Sumner Davenport, said that Shelly Sterling complained about an African-American tenant, saying, “See, Sterling is right, they do smell.”
The league will have to decide whether Shelly Sterling will be included in the owners’ vote to force the Sterlings’ sale of the Los Angeles Clippers. Analysts told the Los Angeles Times that she would likely need votes from 29 other owners before she could take over the Clippers.