Shelly Sterling plans to keep Clippers

ByRamona Shelburne ESPN logo
Thursday, May 8, 2014

LOS ANGELES -- Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling confirmed Wednesday that she intends to keep ownership of the team in her family despite the NBA's move to oust her estranged husband, Donald Sterling, who was banned for life by commissioner Adam Silver last week in the wake of racist remarks he made that were published by TMZ.

Shelly Sterling has been a co-owner of the Clippers with her husband since 1981 and is one of two alternate governors. The other, team president Andy Roeser, began an indefinite leave of absence Tuesday. The team is owned by a family trust.

"Commissioner Silver made it clear, that when he announced sanctions against Donald, that the NBA was taking no action against me or my family," Shelly Sterling said in a statement given to ESPN.

She has hired attorney Pierce O'Donnell to represent her interests as the league moves to terminate her husband's ownership of the team.

"She will not agree to a forced or involuntary seizure of her interest," O'Donnell said Thursday. "As her lawyers we will fight vigorously to defend her property rights."

O'Donnell also told The Associated Press that Shelly Sterling has been separated from her husband for the past year and is considering divorce.

Silver said last week that no decisions had been made regarding members of the Sterling family other than Donald.

"This ruling applies specifically to Donald Sterling and Donald Sterling's conduct only," the commissioner said.

O'Donnell said Shelly Sterling "abhors" the comments and that Silver had "exonerated" her in his statement last week.

"We abhor guilt by association in America," O'Donnell said. "The sins of the husband cannot be imputed to the wife or children."

ESPN's Darren Rovell reported Tuesday that the NBA believes it has the legal grounds to force Sterling to sell the team because he has signed numerous contracts with the league agreeing that an owner will not take any position or action that will materially and adversely affect a team or the league. Owners also sign morals clauses, which state they will be held to the highest standards of ethical and moral behavior.

The NBA will maintain that Sterling violated those contracts should he choose to fight the league's plan to force him to sell. The league must get 75 percent of owners to agree to make the move.

When morals clauses are enacted and result in termination of agreements, including endorsement deals, the courts often are charged with interpreting who was right, but sources with knowledge of the NBA's legal strategy believe the league has enough ammunition to force Sterling to sell.

Shelly Sterling's position is potentially a complicating factor for the league, if its aim is to force a sale of the team to owners outside the Sterling family. It could become further complicated if either Shelly or Donald Sterling files for divorce.

Many big names -- including a team of Oprah Winfrey, Oracle's Larry Ellison (the fifth-richest man in the world, according to Forbes) and entertainment magnate David Geffen -- have expressed their interest in perhaps buying the team, which could sell for upward of $1 billion.

On Saturday, the league announced it would appoint a CEO who would take over day-to-day operations of the Clippers.

NBA owners, meanwhile, on Wednesday held their second discussion about ending Donald Sterling's ownership, with the advisory/finance committee holding a conference call.

League spokesman Mike Bass said Wednesday that the committee discussed the search for a new CEO and got an update on deputy commissioner Mark Tatum's visit with Clippers' employees. The owners plan to reconvene next week.'s Arash Markazi and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related Video