If the NBA really wants to get tough on racism and dish out lifetime bans and make a stand against bigotry, then the only recourse it has is to move the franchise out of Sterling control—and not just Donald Sterling's but the entire Sterling clan's.
On Thursday his wife, Shelly Sterling, announced that she wants to take over the team. Passing control of the Los Angeles Clippers from Donald Sterling to his estranged wife is like handing the Los Angeles NAACP from Leon Jenkins to Kwame Kilpatrick. It's like relieving Dennis Rodman of his North Korea peace-trip duties and announcing that Steve Francis will be taking over. Moving control of the Clippers from Donald Sterling to Shelly Sterling is like handing the team from one racist owner to another.
Let's be crystal clear about this: Shelly Sterling has been Donald Sterling's racist hype man since he first started rapping racist rants. She was mentioned in both discrimination lawsuits filed against her husband. She is reported to have spewed the same racist sentiments as Donald. The only way Shelly's feelings could have been expressed more explicitly would be if she had been heard on the background of the leaked recordings yelling, "Take that, take that!" after Donald told his mistress not to post pictures of herself with blacks on Instagram.
According to a recent story in New York's Daily News, Darrell Rhodes, a tenant in one of Donald's buildings, testified during a 2009 deposition about an encounter he recalled having with Shelly about reducing his rent. The deposition was for a discrimination lawsuit that the Justice Department had filed against Donald Sterling on behalf of other minority tenants.
"I asked her, 'Would you reduce the rent?' " Rhodes said, according to court records seen by the Daily News. "And she said, 'Who do you think you are, you black motherf—ker?'
"The way in which she said 'motherf—ker' 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—k' part was a little lower. I had to look at her lips to hear her say it. And I did."
The case was resolved with a $2.765 million settlement that same year, the Daily News reports.
A former property manager, Sumner Davenport, in an earlier deposition, said that Shelly instructed her not to rent apartments to certain racial groups, the Los Angeles Times reports.
According to Davenport's deposition, viewed by the Times, it appeared that Shelly was relaying the wishes of her husband, though Davenport believes that Shelly was speaking for herself at times.
Davenport recalled that Donald complained that "blacks smelled and blacks stunk, and he wanted them out of his buildings."
She then recalled visiting a building with Shelly that the Sterlings owned. Davenport said that Shelly complained about an African-American tenant's lack of cleanliness and said, "See, Sterling is right, they do smell," according to the Times.
Davenport also testified that Shelly would pose as a health inspector to gain access to tenants' apartment, but while the judge found this to be creepy, he couldn't find it racist.
In another case, on-site manager Maira Oliva claimed that Shelly made derogatory statements about Latinos. " 'She said, 'Oh, my God. This is so filthy. I can't remodel my apartments the way that I want because Latinos are so filthy!' "
Sure, she has come out and condemned her husband's racist ways. That’s the easy part. He is the Titanic of hate and racism, and she is abandoning ship. I never said that Shelly was stupid.
The reality is this: Legally, the NBA's hands may be tied, since the "forced" sale that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he would work so hard for doesn't specify that it has to be to someone outside the family of Donald Sterling, and Silver did state during his lifetime-ban speech that the ruling applies to Donald Sterling and Donald Sterling alone. But given Shelly Sterling's interest in the team, he may want to revisit that statement—unless, of course, he is concerned about racism only as it relates to V. Stiviano's Instagram page.
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