Responding to Shelly Sterling’s intent to hold on to her share of the Clippers, the NBA released a statement on Sunday evening saying she cannot extricate her ownership of the franchise from her husband Donald Sterling’s.
“Under the NBA Constitution, if a controlling owner’s interest is terminated by a 3/4 vote, all other team owners’ interests are automatically terminated as well,” league spokesperson Mike Bass said. “It doesn’t matter whether the owners are related as is the case here. These are the rules to which all NBA owners agreed to as a condition of owning their team.”
For the first time, the NBA is officially tying Shelly Sterling’s claim on the Los Angeles franchise to that of Donald Sterling — whom it banned for life after audio of his racist comments were released by TMZ nearly two weeks ago. The NBA Board of Governors can remove Donald Sterling with a three-fourths majority vote.
Although Shelly and Donald Sterling co-own equal shares of the team in a family trust, Donald is the only one who was approved by the Board of Governors as a controlling member.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver had said that the lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine he issued to Donald Sterling applied only to him, not his family. Neither he nor the league had publicly commented on how the sale of Donald’s share of the team would affect Shelly’s.
Over the past week, Shelly Sterling has said through various statements released by her representatives — as well as an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters — that she intends to fight for her stake in the team regardless of what happens to her husband.
She also told Walters that she thinks her husband may be suffering from the early onset of dementia, and should apologize for his comments. She has also tried to distance herself from him, saying that they have been estranged and that she will “eventually” file a divorce — which could entitle her to half of his assets under California’s community property law.
Her attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, refuted the NBA’s most recent argument in a statement released Sunday night.
“We do not agree with the league’s self-serving interpretation of its constitution, its application to Shelly Sterling or its validity under these unique circumstances,” he said. “We live in a nation of laws. California law and the United States Constitution trump any such interpretation.”