Donald Sterling's wife vows fight to keep Clippers in the Sterling family
Make no mistake -- this is not a renegade spouse positioning herself to fill a power vacuum. This is an obvious and transparent attempt by Donald Sterling to retain Clippers ownership, just not on paper. Sterling is attempting to install his wife as a de facto puppet owner, so he may continue to essentially own the team. There are high-powered attorneys ready to fight for the Sterlings, and the NBA appears to be caught flat-footed on a loophole they didn't realize the Sterlings could use.
"I have been co-owner since 1981,” Ms. Sterling said in a statement to the Orange County Register. “During those 33 years, I have been a diehard fan even when the team was in the basement of the league. Now that all of our hard work is paying off, I want to celebrate the success that we are finally achieving."
"Commissioner Silver made it clear, that when he announced sanctions against Donald, that the NBA was taking no action against me or my family," she additionally told ESPN.
Her attorney, Pierce O'Donnell of the firm Greenberg Glusker, sounds ready to play hardball against the NBA. "She will not agree to a forced or involuntary seizure of her interest," he told ESPN. "As her lawyers we will fight vigorously to defend her property rights."
The terrible thing about this strategy is that it just might work. A team of Los Angeles Times reporters has sources inside the league office, and many are saying the NBA didn't see this coming. "Shelly Sterling's position presents a 'wild card' for the pro basketball league as it faces its biggest crisis in memory, said a league official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter," the Times reports. "Her intention to hold on to the team is a wrinkle apparently not contemplated by NBA officials when they moved nine days ago to strip her estranged husband of ownership."
Translation? They figured Shelly Sterling be pissed enough about the whole "mistress thing" that she wouldn't have her husband's back anymore. For whatever reason, this is not the case.
I have nothing personally against Shelly Sterling, though I'm told she's no prize as a landlord. I can relate that she's had a bad couple of weeks, and her net worth is at risk of taking a hit.
But she is not acting in her personal interest here, she is acting in her husband's interest. This is merely an attempt to sidestep her husband's league-issued penalty.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver got rave reviews for how he initially handled the Sterling scandal. Now the honeymoon period ends, and Silver has some extremely difficult and unpredictable legal work cut out for him.