Wife of Donald Sterling said to have made racial statements, too


Shelly Sterling, the wife of Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, attended the Clippers’ Sunday playoff game against the Golden State Warriors after her husband was asked to stay away. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Despite publicly condemning racist statements made by her husband Donald days ago, Shelly Sterling may share his attitudes, according to court documents cited in a new report.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling admitted to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver that the voice recorded asking V. Stiviano not to bring black people to Clippers games and released by TMZ Saturday was his. He has been banned for life from the NBA and fined the maximum penalty allowed: $2.5 million. The NBA plans to force Sterling to sell the team.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Shelly Sterling played a role in a housing discrimination lawsuit involving a Los Angeles apartment complex owned by the Sterlings, who have been married for 50 years. The federal lawsuit, initiated by tenant Darrell Rhodes in 2007, resulted in a $2.765 million settlement to the Justice Department. As part of the agreement, the Sterlings didn’t admit any wrongdoing, the paper said.

Wrote Nathan Fenno:

“In a 2009 deposition, a tenant at one of the Sterling’s apartment buildings in Los Angeles County said that Rochelle Sterling called him a “black m—f—” during a discussion at the building.”

“I asked her again, I asked her, ‘would you reduce the rent?’” Darrell Rhodes said in the deposition. “And she said, ‘who do you think you are, you black m—f—.’
“The way in which she said m—f— was more lower voiced, under her breath. She said black loud enough for me to hear, she said mother loud enough for me to hear. F— part was a little lower. I had to look at her lips to hear her say it. And I did.”

Court documents obtained by the Times also assert that Shelly Sterling posed as a Health Department inspector and told an on-site manager, Maira Oliva: “Oh, my God. This is so filthy. I can’t remodel my apartments the way that I want because Latinos are so filthy.”

Another case, filed in 2003 by the Housing Rights Center, alleged housing discrimination against blacks and Latinos as well. That case also resulted in a confidential settlement, but reports have estimated the Sterlings paid close to $5 million in attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs. An ESPN Magazine profile of Donald Sterling provided details:

Cultivating his image, [property supervisor Sumner] Davenport said, meant no blacks, no Mexican-Americans, no children (whom Sterling called “brats”) and no government-housing-subsidy recipients as tenants. So according to the testimony of tenants, Sterling employees made life difficult for residents in some of his new buildings. They refused rent checks, then accused renters of nonpayment. They refused to do repairs for black tenants and harassed them with surprise inspections, threatening residents with eviction for alleged violations of building rules.

When Sterling first bought the Ardmore, he remarked on its odor to Davenport. ‘That’s because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they’re not clean,’ he said, according to Davenport’s testimony. ‘And it’s because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day.” He added: “So we have to get them out of here.’

Again, Shelly Sterling appeared to ape her husband’s sentiments. From the Times:

In a 2004 deposition in a separate case, former property supervisor Sumner Davenport said Sterling expressed her dislike for children and ‘certain ethnic groups’ in apartments.

Attorney: Did she say that [Donald Sterling] said he wanted to evict current tenants with children?

Davenport: ‘Yes. She didn’t want — if they were playing in the hallway, if they were out hanging in front of the building, they didn’t fit the image.’

Ever since news of Donald Sterling’s remarks to Stiviano became news, Shelly Sterling has avoided scrutiny. She attended the Clippers’ playoff game against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday afternoon, after Donald Sterling was asked not to attend. There, she told ESPN: “I do not condone those statements that you heard. I do not believe in them. I am not a racist. I never have been, never will be. The team is the most important thing to my family.”

Later that day, she made a statement to TMZ that appeared to implicate her husband: “Our family is devastated by the racist comments made by my estranged husband. My children and I do not share these despicable views or prejudices. We will not let one man’s small-mindedness poison the spirit of the fans and accomplishments of the team in the city we love. We are doing everything in our power to stand by and support our Clippers team.”

But the couple, though said to be estranged, was videotaped leaving a Los Angeles steakhouse together Sunday night. When a TMZ cameraman asked Donald Sterling if he was a racist, his wife yelled, “No, of course not!”

Saturday, when Stiviano’s recording emerged, the Clippers issued a statement seemingly aimed at discrediting her, saying that she was the defendant in a lawsuit accusing her of embezzling $1.8 million from the Clippers. But that wasn’t true. Shelly Sterling is suing for property (a $1.8 million Los Angeles duplex), cash, and cars that Donald Sterling gave to Stiviano as gifts, claiming the assets were community property of the marriage, and therefore, not his alone to give.

RELATED:

After an NBA investigation into racially insensitive comments made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, Commissioner Adam Silver announced Sterling is banned from the league for life. (Reuters)

 

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Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on race and gender issues.
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