The NBA’s gigantic headache – disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling – might be about to go away.
A break in the league’s crisis occurred Friday morning when he signed the team over to his estranged wife Shelly Sterling, allowing her to negotiate its forced sale.
However, the NBA has charged that Donald and Shelly Sterling are not actually estranged. She had until now owned half the team with her husband of 59 years.
Shelly Sterling has more credibility and leverage with the NBA, according to TMZ, which reported she is negotiating with the league to sell the Clippers "on her own terms." She previously stated that she wants to keep her 50% share of the team with a new owner.
On Monday, the NBA said Donald Sterling "damaged and continues to damage the NBA and its teams" through his inappropriate comments about African-Americans. The NBA also set up a June 3 hearing, at which its Board of Governors could vote to terminate his ownership of the Clippers. That could also end her stake in the team.
Shelly Sterling’s attorney has said he believes "there is no lawful basis for stripping" her of the ownership stake.
Allowing her to retain ownership could lead to another major problem. Earlier this month, basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson said the Clippers won’t play if she remains in place.
The debacle started about four weeks ago, after a recording of Donald Sterling making offensive comments about African-Americans surfaced. NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million after the release of the recording.
Prospective team buyers have included Oprah Winfrey, businessmen Larry Ellison and David Geffen, boxer Floyd Mayweather, and rappers Dr. Dre, P Diddy, and Rick Ross. Johnson has also been named as a potential owner.
Sterling bought the team in 1981 for $12.5 million, and he could sell it for upwards of $1 billion.