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Shelly Sterling says she wants to maintain ownership of Clippers. That’s a wildcard for NBA.

May 8, 2014, 12:04 AM EDT

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Shelly Sterling, Donald Sterling’s wife of 50 years, owns half of the Clippers (thanks to California law). It’s always been a potential complication in the league’s stated goal of forcing a sale.

Especially since she wants to maintain control of the team.

She told the Los Angeles Times she wants to maintain control of the Clippers.

Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling said Wednesday that she believes she is legally entitled to maintain ownership of the NBA team and will attempt to do so, even as the pro basketball league pushes to remove her husband from the team he has owned for 33 years.

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.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said that this is not acceptable, that the family cannot maintain control of the team.

He’s right. She’s just serving as his proxy here.

Shelly is far from clean (although proving it in a legally acceptable way will be more difficult, she has less of a paper trail). The night after the recording of Donald making racist statements went public she had dinner with her husband and yelled “he’s not a racist” at the cameras. She was a partner with Donald in his real estate firm and in the lawsuits brought against him a former employee said Shelly used to pose as a government inspector to take a census of the races in their buildings, and to harass some tenants. She allegedly has used plenty of racist language herself. She is far from clean.

For the league, from a business perspective, the sponsors will not care which Sterling owns the team they will pull out. Same from the players — Doc Rivers found out and he’s not likely to stick around to work for her. Most fans will have the same reaction. The league is moving to wrest control of the team from Sterling’s people, with long-time employee and team president Andy Roeser taking a leave of absence and the owners looking to install a new CEO to oversee the operation.

Reportedly Donald signed ethical contracts with the league, which gives the league solid footing on him in the effort to force a sale. Forcing those on her could prove more problematic. The above instances were in settled cases.

This is how the Sterlings fight. They are not going to easily give up control. They are going to work in concert. Their egos are too wrapped up in owning the team. Plus, if Sterling (who is battling cancer) passes away during before the team is sold the rest of his family could save hundreds of millions on capital gains taxes. They are not going to go quietly.

The league needs to have a real stomach for this fight, because the Sterlings count on bullying you in the courts. The other owners are united, but this is not going to be simple and clean.

  1. Dogsweat - May 8, 2014 at 4:31 PM

    Force the sell and the deletion of the L.A. Clippers to the group from Seattle.

    The Clippers need to be extinct for having a racist leader. Get rid of them. Racism and homophobia have no place in the NBA, and those who practice this will be barred.

    The Clipper name will always have the racist tone to it , no matter who owns the team.

    Give Seattle back it’s Sonics and reward them with Griffin and Paul, since Kevin Durant was snatched away from the Green and Gold.

  2. mcfleezy12 - May 8, 2014 at 5:24 PM

    she’s got a point.

    • mackcarrington - May 8, 2014 at 6:21 PM

      No she doesn’t. Silver said that he would do everything in his power to “force a sale of the team”.
      He didn’t say “transfer ownership to someone else in the family.”
      The Sterlings both are arrogant fools.

  3. mornelithe - May 8, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    As far as my understanding of the NBA’s constitution goes, it’s her right to maintain ownership of the Clippers…unless 75% of the owners vote to force the sale. At which point, she has no rights to own an NBA team.

    For owners (or co-owners) to be this ignorant about the things they sign, you’d expect the Sterling’s to be Congressmen in their free time.

  4. godelleb - May 9, 2014 at 12:42 PM

    The problem the NBA will face is that although they can force a sale, they cannot guarantee that the sale will be for a fair value. If 75% of the owners do require the sale of the team, and if the Sterlings do put the team up for sale, the Sterling’s do not need to accept any offers. If the sale does not occur, then the league may strip the team from the Sterlings, however they must give the Sterling’s fair value for the team. The Sterlings may be able to sue the league for not letting fair value be established. The establishment of a fair value can take years. The Sterling’s are looking for time because of the tax implications if a sale occurs.

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