As Shelly Sterling Rushes to Sell the Clippers, Her Husband Dismisses the NBA’s ‘Illegal’ Punishment

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Photo: null/DANNY MOLOSHOK/Reuters/Corbis

The dispute over the future of the Los Angeles Clippers may be over in a matter of days, or drag on for months, depending on which Sterling you believe. Shelly Sterling has been meeting with potential buyers in the past few days, including former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, retired Clippers player Grant Hill, and Oprah Winfrey, in an attempt to set up a sale on her own terms, before the NBA votes next week on whether to force her husband Donald Sterling to sell the team. One of the bidders told the L.A. Times that the offers were due on Tuesday afternoon, so "We will probably know who bought the team by Friday." However, Donald Sterling's lawyer responded, "He’s not interested in selling. He’s going to fight to the bloody end."

Shelly Sterling's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, told USA Today that her husband has given her written authorization to negotiate the sale of the team, including his half of the team. "Shelly is managing the sale of the Clippers," O'Donnell said. "While no formal offers have yet been received, Shelly and the NBA are working cooperatively on the transaction." Shelly Sterling has been keeping the NBA updated on her efforts, and Michael Bass, the league's chief spokesman, said, "It would be a preferred outcome if the Sterlings were to voluntarily transfer 100% of the ownership in the team to new owners, rather than to have their ownership in the team terminated."

Donald Sterling said his estranged wife has mischaracterized their agreement, and underscored that he still plans to fight for the Clippers by sending a 32-page response to the NBA on Tuesday evening. In the document, Sterling's attorneys say it was illegal for V. Stiviano to secretly record his racist remarks, adding, "This was an argument between a jealous man and the woman he loved that should never have left the privacy of the living room." They also cite offensive comments made by players and owners in the past, which they say the NBA either ignored or punished with "a modest fine." They conclude that it's unfair and illegal for Sterling to be "banned for life, fined $2.5 million, and stripped of his ownership for a purely private conversation with his lover that he did not know was being recorded and that he never intended would see the light of day."