Shelly Sterling is not an acceptable Clippers owner, says Magic Johnson

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Magic Johnson says that Shelly Sterling can not be separated from her husband.

Magic Johnson told Eric Prisbell of USA Today Sports that none of the current Los Angeles Clippers players would play for the team if Shelly Sterling, wife of Donald Sterling, retains her 50 percent ownership stake in the team.

USA Today Sports reported a couple of days ago that Shelly Sterling plans to keep her stake in the Clippers, even though her husband was banned for life by the NBA for remarks that were recorded and released by TMZ.

Johnson, however, said that won't fly with the players.

"Those guys are not going to play for anybody (named) Sterling," Johnson told USA TODAY Sports and two other reporters at the Omni Dallas Hotel. "It's just how it is. It's hard to separate the two. ... It's going to be hard for them to sell that to the fans and definitely to the players."

Johnson said that Shelly Sterling can't be separated from her husband. He pointed out the couple's past allegations about the living conditions of the tenants who lived in properties they owned. He said that sponsors will "pull out for good" if Shelly Sterling shares any ownership in the team.

Johnson is reportedly interested in one day owning an NBA team, but declined to speak about his interest in the Clippers and will continue to do so until the team is officially up for sale. He said that it will take a while before the team is officially up for sale because Donald Sterling will fight the case.

"It's a shame all of this happened," Johnson said. "But since it did, they should just sell the team and live a wonderful life because they are going to get a billion-plus for the team. It's not like they are giving up something because they are going to get paid for this team."

Some have wondered just how much control Shelly Sterling has over the team right now. The answer is: Not very much.

According to a report from SI's legal analyst and writer Michael McCann, Shelly Sterling is a "non-controlling" owner. That means she can go to games, gain inside access to team operations and claim that she is an owner. But she does not represent the Clippers on the NBA's Board of Governors and she is not considered the official voice of the team.

If she wanted to become the controlling owner of the Clippers, the league would have to approve, according to McCann and according to McCann's sources, the NBA would not approve such a step. McCann writes that the NBA would have "compelling grounds to deny her attempt, as it would seem to constitute an 'end-around' of the NBA ousting her husband."

According to McCann, the NBA could also use Shelly Sterling's past transgressions, particularly her part in the ownership and management of properties in Los Angeles, as legal justifications to deny her move from non-controlling to controlling owner.

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