Following Donald Sterling’s CNN interview, Shelly Sterling appeared on the Today show with Savannah Guthrie Tuesday. It did not go as poorly as her husband’s interview, but it was certainly not endearing. Let’s go point by point using key excerpts from Scott Stump’s transcription from Today.com:
“I’m very angry. And I’m very hurt. And I even cried listening to that, because I just feel bad,” she told Guthrie in a sit-down that aired Tuesday on TODAY. “And then I feel bad. Why am I the victim when he’s the perpetrator? If somebody killed somebody, does the wife have to stand trial too?”
False equivalency. In the United States, no, collective punishment is not allowed in criminal court.
But Shelly is not standing trial!
The NBA is in the process of removing the owner of one of its teams, and if the league’s interpretation of its rules is correct, it can remove all owners of that team. This is not a court of law. This is a private business exercising its right to operate.
Shelly goes on to discuss Donald’s comments on Magic Johnson (which Adam Silver apologized for on behalf of the NBA).
“I never understood what he was talking about,” Shelly told Guthrie after watching the interview. “And why would he bring Magic Johnson into the issue about what’s happening now? I mean, that’s why I felt pity because he couldn’t get all the dots together. He couldn’t connect the dots.”
“He’s not the man I know, or I knew,” she said. “There’s something wrong. I really think, personally, he has dementia.
“I don’t think it happened overnight. I think it’s been happening, but nobody really knew the reason. I mean, he gets crazy, and yells, and screams, and hollers one moment. The next moment he’ll…talk about something else. I mean it’s like nothing makes sense.”
Guthrie noted that while dementia may make people delusional or nonsensical, it doesn’t necessarily make them say racist things.
“I don’t make excuses for anybody,” she said, admitting that she doesn’t know much about dementia.
Anderson Cooper, who interviewed Donald, said he saw no signs of dementia during their interview. Cooper said Sterling repeatedly referred to previous questions when there were more points he wanted to make before jumping back to the current question. To be fair, Cooper is not trained to diagnose dementia and an hour-or-so-long sample is not necessarily representative.
And Shelly’s answer at least explains how she can both condemn her husband’s statements on the recording and scream he’s not racist.
My question for Shelly, though: When did she first believe Donald had dementia?
Was it before or after he was sued in 2003 for allegedly saying “That’s because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they’re not clean. And it’s because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day”?
Was it before or after he was sued in 1996 for allegedly ordering one of his employees to find him “someone who will, you know, let me put it in or who [will] suck on it”?
Was it before or after he allegedly said, “I wanna know why you think you can coach these niggers” to Rollie Massimino in 1983?
Sterling believes the NBA’s attempts to push her out amount to sexism.
“I really think so,” she said. “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.”’
If an owner’s wife said the same things, of course an owner would not be asked to leave the NBA. But if a woman had controlling interest in a team and her husband said the same things, she would not be asked to leave the NBA.
Is there some institutional sexism occurring because a disproportionate number of NBA owners are men? Perhaps, and that’s worth exploring.
This case gets clouded, though, due the perception Shelly and Donald are working together.
Still, Sterling agrees with the NBA’s decision to force her husband to sell the team.
“I think I agree with what…their decision is,” she said. “I don’t agree what their decision is for me. I wholly feel that I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Well, there are the times you allegedly posed as a health inspector to investigate the race of your husband’s tenants. There is also the time you allegedly called a tenant a “black m—f.” And the time you allegedly called Latinos “filthy.”
Even the fans and team members, she said, have her back.
“Well, I went to the game about two days ago,” she said. “I was sitting up in the box. All the fans right below me were high-fiving me, saying, ‘Go girl. Don’t give up.’ I talked to some of the players. They hugged me.”
Shelly’s supporters included Doc Rivers, and then he learned more about her. If these high-fiving fans and hugging players – should they actually exist – learn more, they might change their tune, too.