In an interview with Anderson Cooper this week, Donald Sterling said that his wife of fifty years, Shelly Sterling, is divorcing him. In fact, USA Today reports that Mrs. Sterling has indeed signed divorce papers, but she has not actually filed them — in part because those divorce papers could now become the key piece of leverage in the Sterlings' fight against the NBA.
In the CNN interview, Sterling also said that he would like his wife to keep her half of the team. "If for some reason I can't have the team, I think she should have her interest," he said. "I mean, she didn't do anything. I brought this all on her."
While Shelly Sterling is herself coming under major fire as a potential owner of the team, she may have a legal claim. Currently, the Clippers are owned by the Sterling Family Trust. The California state laws which govern this trust offer her 50 percent ownership in the team. If the divorce moves quickly, the divorce settlement could move full ownership of the Clippers to Shelly. That would then call into question whether the NBA has the right to vote her out as well, since it could be argued that the ex-husband's, and ex-owner's, violation of the NBA constitution would not apply to Shelly. If the divorce doesn't go quickly, it could tie up the ownership question in the California court system, complicating the NBA's attempts to seize and sell the team even further.