Shelly Sterling, the estranged wife of disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, has reportedly made clear that she wants to keep ownership of the team if NBA owners force her husband to sell.
Donald Sterling was banned for life and fined $2.5 million on April 29 by NBA commissioner Adam Silver after Sterling was recorded telling his girlfriend that he did not want her to bring black people to Clippers games.
Shelly Sterling's representatives provided a statement to the Los Angeles Times Wednesday in which she said that she did not believe the sanctions against Donald Sterling applied to "me or my family." The Times reports that the team is held in a trust, and it is believed that Shelly has equal ownership with her husband, with one assuming full control if the other dies.
A NBA official told the Times that Shelly's desire to maintain control of the team constituted a "wild card" as the league attempts to deal with the fallout from its biggest public-relations crisis in at least a decade. Silver may have inadvertently bolstered Shelly Sterling's case during the press conference announcing Donald Sterling's suspension. In response to a question, the commissioner said that "no decisions had been made" about the fitness of other members of Sterling's family to own the team.
However, any transfer of ownership would have to be approved by three-quarters of the other 29 NBA owners, who are expected to vote later this summer on formally forcing Sterling, 81, to sell the team. Complicating matters even further is the fact that Donald Sterling is expected to take legal action to challenge his ban, which has the potential to keep the matter tied up in courts for years.
In addition, members of the NBA's Players Association have made clear that they would prefer to see the Clippers out of the Sterling family's hands by the start of next season. That sentiment also appears to be prevalent among Clippers employees, including TV and radio play-by-play broadcaster Ralph Lawler, who has been with the franchise for all but two seasons since 1978.
"I think in the eyes of the players and the coaching staff and the basketball staff, the page has been turned," Lawler told the Times, "and I think it would be difficult to turn it back."