In an interview with with ABC News' Barbara Walters on Sunday, Rochelle "Shelly" Sterling — the estranged wife of banned-for-life Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling — confirmed her intention to fight to retain ownership of the franchise should the NBA go through with its plan to force the sale of the club.
"I will fight that decision," she told ABC News' Barbara Walters today in an exclusive interview. "To be honest with you, I'm wondering if a wife of one of the owners, and there's 30 owners, did something like that, said those racial slurs, would they oust the husband? Or would they leave the husband in?"
Sterling added that the Clippers franchise is her "passion" and "legacy to my family."
"I've been with the team for 33 years, through the good times and the bad times," she added. […]
Being estranged from her husband, Shelly Sterling said she would "have to accept" whatever punishment the NBA handed down to him, but that her stake in the team should be separate.
"I was shocked by what he said. And — well, I guess whatever their decision is — we have to live with it," she said. "But I don't know why I should be punished for what his actions were."
Donald and Shelly Sterling own the Clippers "through the Sterling Family Trust, each with a 50 percent share that is set up to be bequeathed to their children upon death," according to USA TODAY Sports' Brent Schrotenboer. Shelly Sterling told Walters that she and her husband have not discussed the possibility of him transferring full ownership to her. According to Article 5 of the NBA's constitution, such a transfer would have to be approved by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. That seems unlikely.
According to NBA spokesman Mike Bass, another aspect of the league's constitution — Article 13, which covers the ability to terminate an owner's franchise with a three-quarters vote of the league's Board of Governors — would render Shelly Sterling's 50 percent ownership stake a moot point.
"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," Bass wrote in a statement circulated Sunday night. "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."
As you'll recall, Silver has said he is very confident that he'll have the support of the full Board of Governors in seeking Donald Sterling's ouster. Based on Bass' statement, that would mean he's got the backing to boot Shelly Sterling, too.
Shelly Sterling's lawyer, as you might expect, has a different view of the reach of the league's constitution and bylaws.
"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," attorney Pierce O'Donnell said, according to The Associated Press. "We live in a nation of laws. California law and the United States Constitution trump any such interpretation."
Shelly Sterling also told Walters that she "eventually" plans to divorce Donald Sterling. They have been married for more than 50 years, have reportedly been separated for more than a year and, according to Shelly Sterling, have been on the rocks for quite a bit longer than that:
"For the last 20 years, I've been seeing attorneys for a divorce," she said, laughing. "In fact, I have here — I just filed — I was going to file the petition. I signed the petition for a divorce. And it came to almost being filed. And then, my financial advisor and my attorney said to me, 'Not now.'"
Sterling added that she thinks the stalling of the divorce stems from "financial arrangements."
But she said "Eventually, I'm going to."
During the press conference at which he announced Sterling's lifetime ban for making racist comments that were captured on tape, Silver was asked if any decisions had been made about whether Sterling's immediate family members, "including Rochelle," would be allowed to maintain ownership or managerial control over the franchise.
"No, there have been no decisions about other members of the Sterling family, and I should say that this ruling applies specifically to Donald Sterling and Donald Sterling's conduct only," Silver said.
That said, the league reportedly believes its constitution and bylaws provide sufficient coverage to be able to oust both Donald and Shelly Sterling. Whether Silver and his associates are correct could, it seems, be a matter for the courts.
Los Angeles Lakers legend and Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Magic Johnson — who initially publicly denied having an interest in purchasing the Clippers, but two days later told a gathering of Southern California business leaders that he and his partners would be interested — reiterated his belief that the Clippers' players wouldn't stand for Sterling ownership of any type during an interview with Doris Burke during Sunday's Game 4 between the Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
"Well, first, the fans wouldn't like it," Johnson said. "The players definitely wouldn't like it. They'd probably boycott. And then the sponsors have already made themselves clear that they wouldn't be sponsoring this team if either Sterling stayed on as the owner."
But James says Sunday that players "don't feel like no one in his family should be able to own the team."
James also says the players are aware that removing Sterling could require a lengthy legal fight, but that "we want what's right."
Many other people associated with the Clippers and the NBA have voiced similar concerns.
"I think in the eyes of the players and the coaching staff and the basketball staff, the page has been turned, and I think it would be difficult to turn it back," legendary Clippers play-by-play broadcaster Ralph Lawler told the Los Angeles Times.
"We're looking for a change in ownership," National Basketball Players Association vice president Roger Mason Jr. told Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Marc J. Spears. "A complete change."
"I don't even want to comment on it because I don't know yet," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. "I think it would be a very hard situation, I'll say that much. I think it would be very difficult. I guarantee you every person wouldn't be on board with it. Whether I would or not, I'm not going to say, I just know that would be a very difficult situation for everybody."
Donald Sterling's first televised interview since the recordings were made public will air Monday on CNN.
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