Shelly Sterling (Rochelle Sterling) attends game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles CLippers at Staples Center. Sterling is the wife of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling (not in attendance). (USA TODAY Sports : Kirby Lee)
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling agreed to let his estranged wife Shelly Sterling sell the team, according to multiple reports.
The NBA is forcing Donald Sterling to sell the Clippers after he made racist comments on an audio recording that was obtained by TMZ in April.
The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that Sterling’s ex-girlfriend V. Stiviano, who secretly recorded a conversation in which he made the remarks, initially sent the recording to the Clippers.
Stiviano claimed in April that she sent the recording to friends for “safekeeping” and that one of them may have sold it to TMZ.
The NBA banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million on April 29. Sterling responded by saying he will not sell the team and threatened to sue the NBA to keep the Clippers.
However, reports surfaced Friday that the matter could be resolved surprisingly quickly. Shelly Sterling and her lawyers have been negotiating with the NBA since her husband was banned.
While Sterling is allowing his wife to sell the team, the NBA has not formally accepted the offer. The NBA wants the Sterlings to give up 100 percent of the team. Sterling has until Tuesday to respond to the NBA. The league then is scheduled to take action on June 3 during a hearing in New York that will involve all NBA owners.
“We continue to follow the process set forth in the NBA Constitution regarding termination of the current ownership interests in the Los Angeles Clippers and are proceeding toward a hearing on this matter on June 3,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement.
That Sterling agreed to allow his wife to negotiate the sale of the team could bring to an end a potential long legal battle.
The controversy started when Sterling, on the audio recording, told Stiviano not to bring black people to Clippers games or associate with them, and made disparaging remarks about former Lakers star Magic Johnson.
The recording was initially sent to a Clippers employee, 16 days before it was obtained by TMZ, the Times reported.
According to the report, a Clippers staffer texted Stiviano on April 9 to let her know her usual courtside seats were being sold to another person for that night’s game. Sterling’s wife had sued Stiviano and put a lien on the house Sterling bought for her. Stiviano’s relationship with Sterling had become strained.
Stiviano responded by writing in a text that it did not matter because someone else gave her other tickets. The employee texted back: “Mr. Sterling said to let me know if you need anything. We don’t want to have any issues at the game.”
Stiviano responded: “No tell Mr. Sterling that I don’t need anything nor do I want anything. … But thanks for asking. LET THE GAMES BEGAN…”
Two minutes later, Stiviano sent the employee an audio file, which included Sterling’s racist comments about blacks and other minorities, and how he did not want Stiviano associating with them or Johnson publicly.
According the Times, Stiviano’s lawyer said that she “did not make any threats,” and did not know about the lien on her house.
Part of the NBA’s allegations about Sterling include details of a cover-up assisted by Clippers president Andy Roeser, who was later placed on indefinite leave. Commissioner Adam Silver said that “multiple team employees” said they did not want to work for Roeser.
The NBA will argue during its June 3 hearing that those high up in the Clippers’ chain of command knew about the recording’s existence and tried to sweep it under the rug.