Who Is Shelly Sterling — Blameless Victim or Enabler of Hubby's Racism?

Donald Sterling's Wife Has Blemishes of Her Own

Getty Images

By Danny Miller

Published May 01, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Few people are envious of Mrs. Donald Sterling this week, despite her claim on half of her estranged husband’s estimated $1.8 billion fortune.

Born Rochelle Stein, 80-year-old Shelly Sterling remains something of an enigma. Is she simply another in a long line of the L.A. Clippers owner’s victims? Or has she played a role, as some people say, in his questionable business practices over the years? Is she truly horrified by the racist comments made by Donald Sterling during a private conversation with his mistress, V. Stiviano, that were released last weekend? Or, despite everything, does she still support him?

On April 29, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that Donald Sterling was banned from the league for life, a harsher reaction than many people expected following the outcry over his racist remarks in which he admonished his mistress for being seen with black people at Clippers games. He was also fined $2.5 million and the commissioner said that he plans to take action to force the billionaire to sell the team.

Donald Sterling is no longer allowed to attend any NBA games or enter any Clippers facility, but that ban does not extend to his wife. That very night, Shelly Sterling attended the playoffs game. She was dressed head-to-toe in black, possibly in support of the players who have been wearing black socks and armbands since the recording was released over the weekend. There is speculation about whether she might be able to take over the reins of the Clippers from her husband if Silver is unable to force a sale.

While many people have expressed sympathy for Shelly Sterling, she has also been accused of making racist statements in the past. In court documents from 2009, a tenant at a Sterling-owned apartment building in Los Angeles claimed that she called him a “black mother***er.” In another document, a manager at one of the Sterlings’ buildings described a visit she made to the property in which she allegedly expressed her dislike for “certain ethnic groups” and said that “the building was filthy because of the Latinos.” A few years earlier, Sterling was accused of posing as a health inspector in order to gain access to a tenant’s apartment.

Sterling is in the process of suing her husband’s mistress for allegedly embezzling millions from the couple’s joint holdings over the past four years. It may be this action that led to the release of the recording of Donald Sterling’s conversation with Stiviano.

On April 27, Shelly denounced her husband in a statement to TMZ: “Our family is devastated by the racist comments made by my estranged husband. My children and I do not share these despicable views or prejudices.” She also expressed her solidarity with the Clippers. “We will not let one man’s small-mindedness poison the spirit of the fans and accomplishments of the team in the city we love. We are doing everything in our power to stand by and support our Clippers team.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.