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Donald Sterling's Scandals
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- Sale of the Team
The Donald Sterling Racism Scandal
He was the longest tenured owner of an NBA team – 33 years – and lost control of it in a matter of months, after racist comments that he made in private were recorded and the audio was made public.
Despite his denials of being racist and publicly apologizing for a terrible mistake, he lost control of the Los Angeles Clippers when his wife sold the team for $2 billion dollars and the courts dismissed his attempts to overturn the sale.
Donald Tokowitz was born in Chicago on April 26, 1934 and his parents moved the family to Los Angeles when he was two years old.
Donald made his big money as a real estate developer who held a law degree. When he turned 25, he and his wife Rochelle, also known as Shelley, changed their last name to Sterling. They said "Tokowitz" was too hard to say and saw financial benefits in making the change.
Donald started out as a divorce and personal injury attorney but his biggest deals involved real estate and he hit it big with the purchase of a 26 unit apartment building in Beverly Hills.
In 1981, Sterling became an NBA owner when he bought the struggling San Diego Clippers franchise for twelve and a half million dollars.
He promised the town a winner, but the teams played poorly. By 1982, he wanted to move the Clippers to Los Angeles. Heartened by Al Davis' maneuvering to get his NFL franchise to move against league wishes from L-A to Oakland, Sterling tried to get his basketball team to L-A in 1994. The NBA said no and fined him 25 million dollars, which was cut to six million when he counter-sued.
The league commissioner suggested someone else run the team for him and the storm passed with Sterling remaining in control. The Clippers finally moved to L-A in the 1999-2000 season.
He wasn't the most liked or respected NBA owner either. The "Sporting News" called him "one of the worst owners in basketball for decades." And the New York Times and Forbes called him the worst owner in sports, period.
Sterling managed to hold on until 2014 but the end was swift. On April 25th, TMZ Sports released this audio conversation between Sterling and V Stiviano, a female friend in which he asked her not to bring black people to Clippers games.
The recording unleased a firestorm of protest from the league, other NBA owners and current and former NBA players, including legends like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal.
With wife Shelley leading the way…
…the team was sold to former Microsoft head Steve Ballmer for two billion dollars, still a tidy profit for the disgraced Sterling.
And Mrs. Sterling scored big again in mid-April, 2015 when a Los Angeles judge ordered Stiviano to pay her more than two and a half million dollars.
Shelly Sterling had successfully argued that the gifts her husband Donald showered on Stiviano were community property from six decades of marriage. Those gifts included a one-point-8 million dollar house near Beverly Hills, a 240-thousand dollar Ferrari and other luxury goodies.
Mrs. Sterling called Stiviano a gold-digger who seduced her husband into providing money and gifts, although both V and Donald said they were just friends and there was never any romance or sex.