Shelly Sterling, the wife of banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, may want to keep her 50-percent ownership of the team, but that wouldn’t wash with Clippers players.
Magic Johnson, who figured prominently in racist comments made by Sterling to V. Stiviano and has been mentioned as a prospective owner if other NBA owners succeed in forcing a sale, told reporters that none of the Clippers would play for the team if she remains in place. After audio of Sterling’s comments became public, Clippers players protested (as did the Miami Heat) by wearing their warmups inside out and there was the real possibility that players would boycott playoff games if Commissioner Adam Silver had not handed down severe punishment. The Sterlings faced a public backlash as sponsors withdrew from involvement with the team.
“Those guys are not going to play for anybody [with the name] Sterling,” Johnson said (via USA Today’s Eric Prisbell) in Dallas. “It’s just how it is. It’s hard to separate the two. … It’s going to be hard for them to sell that to the fans and definitely to the players.”
For Johnson, the issue is that there have been allegations about racism involving both Sterlings in their real-estate business.
“When they accused them of [being] slumlords, that was both. It wasn’t one person,” Johnson said. “It was both of them. … They will never recover from this. All the sponsors pulling out, they will pull out for good if she is owning it. It’s not going to be the same.”
Although Johnson has denied that he would be interested in purchasing the team, reports quoting sources saying otherwise have been circulating since the first audio was published April 26.
“First of all, we have to all remember that that is a long way away,” Johnson, a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, said. “The board of governors first has to vote him out. Donald Sterling is going to fight it. You know that. It is going to be a long time. I have other things to do before I just say my level of interest. The team has to be up for sale. And I think that is going to be eight months to a year. Once it’s official, that it’s really up for sale, we’ll take a look at it.”
It comes as no surprise that the Sterlings would balk at selling the team they purchased in 1981 for $12.5 million, even though it would bring at least $600 million and perhaps $1 billion. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said as much last Sunday.
“You can’t force someone to sell property in America,” Donald Sterling says on a new audio on which he proclaims that he is not a racist. “I’m a lawyer, that’s my opinion.”