May 10, 2014, 6:30 PM EST
If Magic Johnson is right and the Clippers players won’t play for a Shelly Sterling-owned team, they might be in luck.
The NBA believes it has the legal grounds to oust both Shelly Sterling and her husband as owners, despite the fact that commissioner Adam Silver’s punishments were specifically leveled only against Donald, according to sources with knowledge of the league’s legal strategy.
She has publicly and privately cooperated with the league in its actions to ban her husband for life and move to oust him from ownership. However, the league’s contention will be that Shelly Sterling — while entitled to a 50 percent interest in the franchise — has never been approved by the board of governors as the controlling owner. She and team president Andy Roeser, who went on an indefinite leave of absence this week, were only alternate governors.
At face value, the NBA’s argument makes sense. There’s no way the board of governors would ever approve her now, so even with Donald headed out, she couldn’t just slide in and take control.
However, Donald signed moral and ethical contracts as controlling owner. It’s not clear Shelly did, and I really can’t see a reason she would have been asked to.
And what if she’s not trying to gain the privileges of being a controlling owner?
Shelly’s lawyer previously said his client would fight NBA punishment levied on her, but she’s not fighting to become controlling owner. Shelburne:
Shelly Sterling’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, told ESPN on Friday that his client was “trying to resolve this” amicably with the NBA, but if that wasn’t possible, “We’re going to be in the courts.”
Her position, at this time, O’Donnell said, was to maintain her 50 percent interest in the team for the rest of her life. However, she does not want to be the team’s controlling owner and would welcome “a new, dynamic management team and investors to come in.”
Shelly’s views on this have been confounding, but she might have a sound argument now.
Adam Silver clearly said Donald – not Shelly – had been banned by the NBA. So, how can the league remove her as a non-controlling owner?
If she’s intent on remaining an owner, holding a non-controlling interest might be an acceptable, if unsatisfying, compromise for the league. But for the players, that would be a whole other outlook.
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