NBA: Under-fire Sterling's wife and co-owner wants to keep Clippers, says report

Shelly Sterling (centre), the wife of Donald Sterling owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, watches the Clippers against the Golden State Warriors in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena on April
Shelly Sterling (centre), the wife of Donald Sterling owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, watches the Clippers against the Golden State Warriors in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena on April 27, 2014, in Oakland, California. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Shelly Sterling says she wants to maintain ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, even though the league is seeking to oust her husband from the team he has owned since 1981.

The Clippers co-owner told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that she believes she has a legal right to run the team and that the sanctions levelled against her husband, Donald Sterling, do not apply to her.

She also said she has hired a lawyer to help her with the control bid.

The Clippers are held in a family trust which Shelly Sterling shares 50-50 with her husband, the Times said. In the event one dies, the surviving spouse gets the other share.

Donald Sterling has owned the team for 33 years and in that time its value has skyrocketed from the US$12.5 million he initially paid for it. Some experts say the team might be worth up to US$1 billion (S$1.25 billion) now.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling, the longest-tenured National Basketball Association team owner, for life after racist remarks he made in a private conversation with a girlfriend were made public.

The comments, first released by celebrity website TMZ, included Sterling saying he did not want his girlfriend bringing black people to Clippers games or posting photographs of herself on social media with black people.

A firestorm of outrage followed, leading the Clippers players to wear their uniforms inside out in a pre-game warm-up before Silver banned Sterling and fined the 80-year-old real estate mogul US$2.5 million, the maximum allowed under league rules.

NBA owners also started the process of setting up a vote to strip the team from Sterling, a move that could push him to sell the Clippers. He has yet to comment on the leaked tapes but some are expecting him to try and take the NBA to court in a legal fight that could be bitter and lengthy.

Shelly Sterling's continued presence in the organization could prove problematic for the league because, like her husband, she has been accused of making racist comments in earlier lawsuits connected to the family's real estate business, the Times said.

One former Sterling property manager accused Shelly Sterling in a deposition about a decade ago of instructing her not to rent to people that belonged to specific racial groups.

Meanwhile, NBA officials met to discuss the league's bid to strip Donald Sterling of his team on Wednesday but have not settled on a timeline for action.

A statement by NBA executive vice-president Mike Bass said members of the league's advisory/finance committee had spoken again in a conference call.

"The Committee reviewed the status of the search for a new CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers, was updated on meetings held this week between NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and Clippers employees, and addressed the process and timing regarding the termination of Mr Sterling's ownership of the team," Bass said.

A further meeting would take place next week.

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