(NEW YORK) — Rochelle “Shelly” Sterling spoke out for the first time Sunday following the controversial backlash surrounding estranged husband Donald Sterling and his racist remarks.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Barbara Walters, Shelly Sterling says she will “eventually” file to divorce Donald Sterling, and if the NBA tries to force her to sell her half of the Los Angeles Clippers, she would “absolutely” fight to keep her stake in the team.
“I will fight that decision,” she said. “To be honest with you, I’m wondering if a wife of one of the owners, and there’s 30 owners, did something like that, said those racial slurs, would they oust the husband? Or would they leave the husband in?”
Sterling added that the Clippers franchise is her “passion” and “legacy to my family.”
“I’ve been with the team for 33 years, through the good times and the bad times,” she added.
These comments come nearly two weeks after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine for Donald Sterling on April 29, following racist comments from the 80-year-old, which were caught on tape and released to the media.
Being estranged from her husband, Sterling said she would “have to accept” whatever punishment the NBA handed down to him, but that her stake in the team should be separate.
“I was shocked by what he said. And — well, I guess whatever their decision is — we have to live with it,” she said. “But I don’t know why I should be punished for what his actions were.”
In fact, Sterling told Walters she thinks her estranged husband is suffering from “the onset of dementia.”
If Donald Sterling is forced to sell his half of the team, she doesn’t know what he will do, but the possibility of him transferring full ownership to her is something she “would love him to” consider.
“I haven’t discussed it with him or talked to him about it,” Sterling said.
The lack of communication between husband and wife led Walters to question whether she plans to file for divorce.
“For the last 20 years, I’ve been seeing attorneys for a divorce,” she said, laughing. “In fact, I have here– I just filed– I was going to file the petition. I signed the petition for a divorce. And it came to almost being filed. And then, my financial advisor and my attorney said to me, ‘Not now.'”
Sterling added that she thinks the stalling of the divorce stems from “financial arrangements.”
But she said, “Eventually, I’m going to.”
Since Donald Sterling’s ban, several celebrities have said they would be willing to buy the team, including Oprah Winfrey and Magic Johnson. He remains the owner, though his ban means he can have nothing to do with running the team and can’t attend any games.
Silver announced Friday that former Citigroup chairman and current Time Warner chairman Richard Parsons has been named interim CEO of the team, but nothing concrete in terms of ownership or whether Donald Sterling will be forced to sell the team. Parsons will now take over the basic daily operations for the team and oversee the team’s president.
For more of Barbara Walters’ interview with Rochelle Sterling, watch World News tonight.
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