Shelly Sterling contract ranks among the weirdest in pro sports

Shelly Sterling finalized her sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion this week. But Shelly Sterling remains involved in the team, and the clauses added to the terms of the sale, including her being officially dubbed the Clipper's 'number one fan,' might be some of the weirdest in professional sports. 

Nick Ut/AP/File
With her attorney Pierce O'Donnell, right, Shelly Sterling, center, talks to reporters on July 28 after a judge ruled in her favor and against her estranged husband, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, in his attempt to block the $2 billion sale of the NBA basketball team, outside Los Angeles Superior Court.

The Los Angeles Clippers are under new management, but at least one of the Sterlings is with the team to stay.

On August 12, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer officially bought the Los Angeles Clippers from Shelly Sterling for $2 billion, but the terms of the sale gave her more than just money from the team.

In the sale contract, Ms. Sterling got a few interesting extra perks. She was given the self-appointed title of "Clippers Number One Fan." She will be forever known as "owner emeritus" of the Clippers, and will receive 12 tickets to every game (two of which are court side seats). She also gets six parking spaces, 12 VIP passes, and, if the Clippers win an NBA championship, three championship rings.

The Clippers' "owner emeritus" gained control of the team after her husband, Donald Sterling, was secretly recorded making racially insensitive remarks in April. After a round of legal maneuvering, Shelly Sterling, who said she planned to divorce her husband, gained full control of the team when two doctors deemed that Donald Sterling was mentally incapable of running the Clippers. For his comments, The NBA banned Mr. Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million for his comments. Sterling and the NBA are currently in the midst of suing each other.

Despite Shelly Sterling's continued involvement with the team, her past regarding issues of race is far from spotless. In 2006, she and her husband were both sued for housing discrimination, and in court documents, Shelly was accused of saying racist things about her tenants. The case was later settled for $2.765 million. In May, ABC affiliate in Los Angeles reported that Shelly Sterling had a allegedly posed as a health inspector over the years to gain access to tenant apartments illegally. She denies the accusations.

"These are lesser transgressions to Donald Sterling's, but they are transgressions nonetheless. A just ending would involve both Sterlings leaving the Clippers forever," Mike Prada of SB Nation wrote Monday. "While it's excellent that Donald Sterling is out of power, it's a problem that Shelly Sterling is maintaining such a large ceremonial role despite having blood on her hands."

The Clippers are trying to move away from their decades-long past under the Sterlings.  "Today marks the beginning of a new era in the life of our franchise," Mr. Ballmer wrote in an open letter to Clippers' fans once the sale was finalized. 

There maybe a new owner, but it will be hard to move away from the Sterling era when Shelly Sterling, the team's official number one fan, sits court side. 

Shelly Sterling's arrangement with the team may seem strange, but there is some precedent for weird clauses in sports contracts. Charlie Finley of Major League Baseball's Oakland A's had a contract that included a $300 bonus for growing a mustache and included a provision for another $100 to buy mustache wax. 

In the late 1990s, Swedish soccer player Stefan Schwarz's contract with Sunderland, an English soccer team, stipulated that Mr. Schwarz wasn't allowed to travel to space

Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane gave pitcher Roy Oswald a bulldozer for winning Game 6 of the 2005 National League Championship Series.

A clause in Glen Davis's contract with the Boston Celtics stated that Mr. Davis would get an extra $500,000 a year if he stayed under 310 pounds.

George Brett got part ownership in a Memphis apartment complex in 1984 when he signed a contract extension with the Kansas City Royals.

And soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo's contract with Real Madrid stipulates that if another team wants to buy him from Real Madrid, they would have to pay more than $1.4 billion. You read that right. Billion.

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