Clippers coach Doc Rivers conceded “it would be a hard situation” if Shelly Sterling retained control of the Clippers due to her husband, Donald, making racially disparaging remarks on an audio tape.
But Shelly’s attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, argued in a statement on Thursday that his client maintains the right to retain her ownership stake with Clippers. She has been a co-owner and alternate governor of the franchise since 1981, backed by a family trust that both Shelly and Sterling equally share.
“Despite all of the furor during the past week, Mrs. Sterling still has property rights,” O’Donnell said. “She has worked tirelessly over the years to build up a franchise that was once a cellar dweller into a sports powerhouse. She has the same right as anyone else in America to enjoy and control the fruits of those labors, and that includes deciding whether to keep or sell her 50 percent interest in the team.”
Rivers refused to reveal his opinion on whether Shelly Sterling should maintain ownership. But he revealed plenty in the organization would feel uncomfortable, citing Shelly’s relationship with Donald. Added Rivers: “We wouldn’t know who was really in charge.”
Shelly also has received criticism because court documents accused her of denigrating African Americans, Latinos and once posing as a health inspector. Shelly was also listed in numerous housing discrimination lawsuits against Donald’s real estate properties. But O’Donnell noted that testimony came in cases that were settled, which does not admit guilt.
“Mrs. Sterling has made it clear that she abhors the attitudes reflected in her estranged husband’s recent remarks and that she supports the NBA’s decision to ban him for life,” O’Donnell said in a statement. “They may share the same name, but they don’t share the same values on race.”
The NBA issued Donald Sterling a life-time ban and a $2.5 million fine for reasons beyond his racially denigrating remarks on several audio tapes. Those remarks compromise various moral and ethical contracts Donald Sterling signed before purchasing the Clippers in 1981, according to a league source familiar with the situation.
The NBA plans to have a vote at the next Board of Governors meeting at an unspecified date where 75 percent of the owners would need to agree to strip Donald Sterling of his ownership. Should Donald fight this outcome through litigation, the NBA plans to maintain he violated the various contracts he signed.
Shelly maintains she should not suffer the same consequences.
“I do not doubt the sincerity of those calling for Mrs. Sterling to relinquish her legitimate co-ownership interest in the Los Angeles Clippers based on allegations and rumors that she supposedly exhibited racial animus in the past,” O’Donnell said in a statement. “But they are doing so in a rush to judgment and in error.”
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