The NBA may have a problem on their hands with the Los Angeles Clippers and their hopes that the franchise be sold to anyone other than Donald Sterling. Yesterday, Shelly Sterling, the wife of the controversial owner, made public that she wants control of the team and raised the possibility that she might keep the franchise.
Ms. Sterling has been a co-owner of the Clippers with her husband since 1981 and is one of two alternate members of the NBA board of governors. The other, team president Andy Roeser, began an indefinite leave of absence Tuesday.
The main legal issue for the NBA is that the team is owned by a Sterling family trust. The league took action against Donald Sterling and not his wife Shelly, therefore if Ms. Sterling can show that she indeed owns the team then she might be able to keep the franchise.
Shelly Sterling described her long tenure as a “die-hard” fan of the Clippers and said she believes that the sanctions against Donald Sterling — which included a lifetime ban and $2.5-million fine — do not apply to “me or my family.”
The NBA had no immediate response to Shelly Sterling’s desire to keep the team. On Wednesday, in the comments to the media provided by her representatives, she said she had retained a law firm to guide her in her ownership quest.
The league moved against Donald Sterling after the website TMZ released a recording in which Sterling told a frequent courtside companion that he did not want to see her at Clippers games with black people. Faced with an exodus of advertisers and player anger, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver responded with the fine, lifetime ban and call for the league’s 29 other owners to vote to force Sterling to sell the team.
Ms. Sterling told the Los Angeles media that she feels since the team is held in a family trust, that she has equal ownership with her husband and each takes control if the other dies or cannot run the franchise. Sterling paid $12.5 million for the team in 1981, but experts have said recently the team could be sold for $1 billion or more.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers told Yahoo Sports : “It’s a tough one for Shelly [Sterling], really,” Rivers said. “She didn’t do anything wrong either. You have compassion for her. I kept hearing about the girlfriend. I kept thinking, ‘Shelly is the wife.’ You know what I mean? I talked to her the other day and she has been through as much as anyone as well.”
Ms. Sterling has become a master of taking over the spotlight on her positive work as the Clippers co-owner.
In the days since the furor around the team began, she has positioned herself as a separate center of power within the Clippers organization. After remaining mostly in the background for decades, she has issued several statements as the “co-owner” of the team.
She lashed out, in a prepared statement, at her husband’s “small-mindedness” and “racist comments.”
On Tuesday, she praised the NBA’s action to put long-time team President Andy Roeser on an indefinite leave of absence, saying she was “working with the NBA in the search for the new CEO.” .
When Silver announced Donald Sterling’s punishment, he said there had been “no decisions about other members of the Sterling family,” adding: “This ruling applies specifically to Donald Sterling and Donald Sterling’s conduct only.”
The league has a long way to go before the team is sold, there is the very strong possibility that both Donald and Shelly Sterling could take the NBA to court over the issue of ownership. So this soap opera is far from over.