By Dakota Smith
Daily News, Los Angeles.
For some women, Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling cuts a complex figure. She’s been married for decades to real estate mogul Donald Sterling, a man whose reputation overseeing the Clippers and hundreds of rental buildings was marred with controversy.
But Shelly Sterling was also a partner in that empire — a constant figure at Clippers’ games at Staples Center — who also was involved in the couple’s apartment business, according to court documents.
Now, Shelly Sterling is fighting to hang on to the basketball team, even as the NBA says she has no rights to the team.
With a legal battle over the Clippers looming, feminists are mixed in their support of Shelly Sterling’s right to challenge the league.
Self-described feminist attorney Gloria Allred questioned the public’s rush to oust Shelly Sterling following a press conference Monday in which she criticized Donald Sterling.
Shelly Sterling may not be personally liked by fans or the players, but many NBA owners are unpopular, Allred said.
“She has every right to fight for the team,” Allred said.
The NBA this week said that if Donald Sterling is pushed out, Shelly Sterling also would lose her interest in the team.
Donald Sterling is a controlling owner of the Clippers, and if his stake is terminated, all other team owners’ interests are terminated, too, NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement late Sunday.
In the latest legal maneuvering since the scandal broke just over two weeks ago, Shelly Sterling’s attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, challenged the NBA’s position, calling it a “self-serving interpretation of its constitution.”
California laws may also protect Shelly Sterling, O’Donnell said in a statement this week.
Shelly Sterling’s husband of more than 50 years was banned from the NBA following the release of audio on April 25 of the billionaire scolding a female friend, V. Stiviano, for bringing African-Americans to his games and posting photos of herself with African-Americans.
With the league also seeking to terminate the Sterlings’ stake in the team, public pressure on both Donald and Shelly Sterling to step down is intense.
On Monday, Clippers interim CEO Dick Parsons told reporters that new ownership is “inevitable.” He added that a prolonged fight with the Sterlings would be bad for the team and players.
Numerous local leaders, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, have said that Shelly Sterling shouldn’t continue as an owner, with Garcetti calling for a “clean break” from the entire family. Others have pointed to the fact that Shelly Sterling was named in a federal discrimination lawsuit against her husband.
But Shelly Sterling is fighting back. In an interview airing Monday with Barbara Walters, Shelly Sterling suggests her husband may have dementia and said she never heard him make racist remarks.
She also took aim at those seeking her removal and questioned whether a husband would lose his share of a basketball team if the roles were reversed.
“To be honest with you, I’m wondering if a wife of one of the owners, and there’s 30 owners, did something like that, said those racial slurs, would they oust the husband?” Shelly Sterling asked Walters, according to ABCNews.com. “Or would they leave the husband in?”
Those remarks drew criticism from Patricia Bellasalma, president of the California chapter of the National Organization for Women, who said Shelly Sterling was playing the role of “helpless wife.”
In fact, Shelly and Donald Sterling have a business partnership, Bellasalma said. She believes that Shelly could have put in legal protections to protect her ownership, in the event Donald’s comments and actions hurt her in the business.
“They made the empire together, and she was part of the decision making,” Bellasalma said.
That view was also taken by Muffy Sunde, organizer of the Freedom Socialist Party of Los Angeles, a socialist feminist group, who said Shelly Sterling is partly to blame for the couple’s poor reputation on housing and racial issues.
“This phony baloney of handing over (the Clippers) to her, we’re not going to stand for that,” Sunde said.
Shelly Sterling’s representative didn’t return a phone call Monday.
In the ABC News interview, Shelly Sterling told Walters that there’s the possibility Donald Sterling could transfer his ownership to her, a move she “would love him to” consider.
Allred believes the courts need to decide if Shelly Sterling can keep her stake in the Clippers, and Donald Sterling’s wife “needs to be judged in her own right.”