The estranged wife of embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling pledged Tuesday to go "as far as I can go" to fight what she characterized as the NBA's sexist move to remove her as a co-owner of the team in response to her husband's racist remarks.
"Would an owner’s wife say the same thing and would the owner be asked to leave the NBA? Or would they just say, well, she’s only the wife," Rochelle Sterling said in an interview with "Today."
Sterling said while derogatory remarks about African Americans her husband made in a recording released last month, as well as new controversial comments he made in a CNN interview that aired Monday, make her sick, she said she doesn't think she should be targeted in the NBA's push to force a sale of the team. She recalled attending a game recently where she said fans were giving her high fives and saying" Go girl, don't give up."
“I’m very angry and I’m very hurt and I even cried listening to that because I just feel bad," she said. "And then I feel bad, why am I the victim when he’s the perpetrator. If somebody kills somebody, does the wife have to stand trial, too?”
The NBA has pledged to oust Donald Sterling, who has owned the team for 30-plus years, in light of audio recording published by TMZ last month. Sterling also faces a $2.5 million fine and a lifetime ban from the NBA.
In response to similar vows Rochelle Sterling made last week about keeping her share of the team, the NBA released a statement that said if a controlling owner's interest is terminated by a three-fourths vote of the other league owners, "all other team owners' interests are automatically terminated as well. It doesn't matter whether the owners are related as is the case here. These are the rules to which all NBA owners agreed to as a condition of owning their team."
The statement cited the NBA constitution and bylaws, a more-than-90-page document that outlines the commissioner's broad powers when it comes to terminating ownership of a team.
At his first news conference as the team's interim CEO, Richard Parsons said Monday that he has not had any conversations with Sterling or his estranged wife. The NBA's hand-picked team supervisor said there is "not much" he can do about the team's ownership situation and will be focused on acting as a "conservator" for the franchise.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver reiterated the league's intent to move quickly again this week after the 80-year-old billionaire team owner found himself under fire yet again for blasting Johnson during his first public interview since the scandal broke.
In addition to asking for forgiveness for his earlier remarks, Sterling slammed Johnson as a bad role model for children who does nothing for the black community. He told CNN's Anderson Cooper that Johnson, who is HIV positive, should be "ashamed of himself" for having sex with women given his diagnoses. Sterling could be heard in the original recording, which has not been authenticated by NBC News, chastising companion V. Stiviano for bringing black people to a game and posting an Instagram photo with Johnson.
Rochelle Sterling, who goes by Shelly, said the latest comments support her belief that her estranged husband is suffering from early stages of dementia.
“Why would he bring Magic Johnson into the issue about what’s happening now?" she said. "I mean that’s where I felt pity because he couldn't get all the dots together. He couldn’t connect the dots.”
Donald Sterling's comments about Lakers legend Johnson drew yet another response from Silver, who said in a statement, "I just read a transcript of Donald Sterling's interview with Anderson Cooper and while Magic Johnson doesn't need me to, I feel compelled on behalf of the NBA family to apologize to him that he continues to be dragged into this situation and be degraded by such a malicious and personal attack. The NBA Board of Governors is continuing with its process to remove Mr. Sterling as expeditiously as possible."
As for Johnson, he tweeted Monday: "After this week, no more Sterling talk. Just the NBA Playoffs, my @Dodgers and my @LA_Sparks!"
NBCLA's Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.