Shelly Sterling, the estranged wife of banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is not quite ready to give up her claimed 50% ownership of the team. The NBA is preparing a vote to force the sale of the team and Mrs. Sterling has vowed to fight to keep the Clippers in the family. Mrs. Sterling feels that the team is part of her family legacy. The wife of the banned owner does not think that she should be punished for the actions of her husband.
In an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters, Mrs. Sterling revealed that she has been in talks with divorce lawyers for the last 20 years. She blames the two decades of divorce talks on the financial agreements with her husband. Apparently, the petition for divorce is ready to be filed, but with the current situation with Sterling’s husband and his troubles with the NBA, she has been advised to hold off for now. A divorce may hamper any chance that she would have to retain the ownership of the Clippers.
Mrs. Sterling may be fighting for a team that does not want anything to do with her. NBA Legend Magic Johnson believes that the Clippers will not want to take the court next year if a Sterling is still in an ownership position. Mrs. Sterling may not have firm ground to stand on either. According to the NBA, her 50% ownership claim may not be valid. The league’s Board of Governors never approved Shelly Sterling as a majority owner of the team. Without the acknowledgment of ownership from the Board of Governors, officially, 100% of the team is owned by Donald Sterling giving Mrs. Sterling no grounds to fight the league.
Shelly Sterling told Walters that her husbands comments which led to his lifetime ban from the NBA shocked her. However, Mrs. Sterling believes her estranged husband has dementia. Between the memory disease and growing up in a different era, the comments about blacks that Mr. Sterling made, while inappropriate, did not strike his estranged wife as racist. Mrs. Sterling does believe that he should apologize for the comments and she is ready to fight the league for her claimed ownership.
If Donald Sterling has dementia, would an apology actually mean anything? Would the 81-year old understand what he is apologizing for? If the banned owner is suffering from dementia, he should have been removed from an ownership position earlier. Dementia could easily make the day-to-day duties of the owner difficult, if not impossible. Mrs. Sterling’s admittance that the couple has been going through divorce talks for the last 20 years could also be detrimental to her claim of partial ownership.
The NBA is moving forward as they get ready for the expected fight over the forced sale. The league announced that Clippers president Andy Roeser will be on a leave of absence, indefinitely. The former chairman of Time Warner, Richard Parsons has been brought in to run the teams day-to-day operations alongside head coach Doc Rivers. Parsons will act as interim chief executive officer while Rivers will handle basketball operations. Shelly Sterling felt the move was painful, but necessary to move forward. As all of this goes on, the Clippers continue in the NBA playoffs battling the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round.
Commentary by Carl Auer