Clippers coach Doc Rivers voiced his support of Donald Sterling’s wife following Sterling’s lifetime ban of all things related to his team and the NBA Tuesday, although it was unclear if Rivers was aware of reports that Shelly Sterling had expressed her own bigotry against blacks and Latinos in court records uncovered this week.
“It’s a tough one for Shelly (Sterling), really. She didn’t do anything wrong either," Rivers said after Tuesday night’s Clipper victory over Golden State in Game 5 of the NBA playoffs. "You have compassion for her. I kept hearing about the girlfriend. I kept thinking, ‘Shelly is the wife. You know what I mean? I talked to her (Tuesday) and she has been through as much as anyone as well.”
Shelly Sterling — who distanced herself from her spouse’s hate speech in a statement on Monday — was accused in a 2009 deposition related to a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Sterlings of saying that Latinos were filthy and that she had called one of her husband’s tenants a “black motherf-----.”
The accusations, made by tenant Darrell Rhodes, was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Shelly Sterling attended Tuesday night’s game at the Staples Center, cheering from a suite rather than her usual courtside seat. She had called Rivers earlier in the day to ask whether he thought it appropriate for her to come.
Rivers encouraged her to do so.
"She's been through as much as anyone," Rivers said. "She asked if she could come. I thought it was a very nice gesture. She just wanted the players to know she loved them. I thought why not?”
Rivers was asked whether he thought Shelly could potentially assume ownership of the team, and he noted that he did not believe such a transfer of power could take place moving forward.
"I don't know. I honestly don't know," Rivers said. "It doesn't sound like it to be honest. I think she knows that, but she still wanted to be here. And I don't know if it was right or wrong but I thought it was right."
A high-ranking NBA source told the Daily News Tuesday that the NBA considered asking Donald Sterling to transfer control of the team to his wife.
The 2009 deposition of Rhodes, along with the Justice Department’s discrimination suit on behalf of other minority tenants, was resolved in a $2.765 million settlement that same year.
Rhodes said he was asking Shelly Sterling about a rent cut when she lashed out, the court documents showed.
“I asked her, ‘Would you reduce the rent?’” Rhodes recalled in the deposition. “And she said, ‘Who do you think you are, you black motherf-----?’
“The way in which she said motherf----- 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--- part was a little lower. I had to look at her lips to hear her say it. And I did.”
Maira Oliva, a building manager at a Sterling property, said there was no lip-reading needed when Shelly Sterling bad-mouthed minority tenants to her.
“She said, ‘Oh my God. This is so filthy. I can’t remodel my apartments the way I want because Latinos are so filthy,’” Oliva recalled in her 2009 deposition.
Asked specifically what Sterling said, Oliva again quoted the billionaire wife’s remark: “I can’t remodel my building the way I want and that the building was filthy because of the Latinos.”
The Sterlings admitted no wrongdoing in their settlement of the lawsuits. But Donald Sterling was accused in court papers of making similar racist cracks about black and Hispanic tenants.
According to the suit, Sterling said he didn’t want to rent to Hispanics because “they smoke, drink and just hang around the building.”
As for black tenants, Sterling was charged with saying they “smell and attract vermin.”
On Sunday, Shelly Sterling denied she is a racist.
“I’m not a racist,” she said. “Never have been, never will be.