Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling would like to allow his wife, Shelly, to negotiate the forced sale of the NBA team in order to end a monthlong furor surrounding his racially charged remarks about African Americans, The Times confirmed Friday.
The news, first reported by ESPN.com and TMZ.com, could end the owners’ dispute with the pro basketball league, whose commissioner, Adam Silver, had asked that the Sterlings be ejected from the league.
Fellow NBA owners are set to hear evidence on June 3 in New York at a hearing to determine whether the Sterlings should be able to keep the team, which they jointly own through a family trust. Three-fourths of the owners must approve the ouster of the Sterlings for it to become effective.
All indications had been that the Sterlings would fight to hold on to the team they have owned for 33 years. But a Donald Sterling confidant said Friday that Sterling, the team’s controlling owner, would like to turn the Clippers over to his wife to complete a sale.
The confidant, who declined to be named discussing sensitive negotiations with the NBA, said the arrangement can only go ahead “if the league will allow her [Shelly Sterling] to retain some ownership,” adding: “My sense is that it’s not a done deal. The issue is whether she gets to keep an interest” for the purposes of the sale.
It’s unclear how the NBA would react to a proposal to allow Shelly Sterling to have control of the Clippers, however briefly. The league’s charges against Donald Sterling say that an NBA investigator did not believe that the couple was estranged and did not want to leave Shelly in control, lest there be an appearance that Donald Sterling was still in charge. That sentiment could be ameliorated, however, if she intended to sell immediately.