The LA Times put the spotlight on Donald Sterling’s “estranged” wife Shelly Sterling Wednesday, highlighting past housing lawsuits suggesting that she might share some of his racist attitudes.
Shelly Sterling has become more central to the Sterling scandal in the last week as Donald Sterling at one point gave her authority to sell the team—though that status is now in question as his attorney has assured the NBA that Sterling is gearing up for a fight.
The LA Times reports that while Shelly Sterling has attempted to distance herself from husband’s inflammatory remarks about African Americans, housing lawsuits from last decade contain “recurring allegations” of racial prejudice:
In recent weeks, she has sought to distance herself from her husband's now-infamous remarks about blacks, insisting that she has never harbored such sentiments or discriminated against anyone.
But a review of two federal housing lawsuits against the Sterlings finds recurring allegations that she made derogatory remarks about minorities and that she also sought by subtler means, such as pretending to be a government inspector, to harass blacks, Latinos and families with children.
The Housing Rights Center lawsuit focused on the Sterlings’ alleged preference for Korean tenants over other minorities and families with children. One of the stranger elements of the suit is the allegation that Shelly Sterling impersonated health inspectors in attempts to coerce tenant behavior:
Allegations that Shelly Sterling impersonated health inspectors first surfaced in the Housing Rights Center lawsuit. The suit grew out of complaints that the Sterlings gave preference to Korean tenants and discriminated against other minorities and families with children at Los Angeles properties they owned.
The Justice Department lawsuit made similar allegations about racial discrimination, including charges that the Sterlings or their employees tracked tenants' race. The government claimed that the alleged incidents formed a "pattern or practice of discrimination" based on race, heritage or familial status.
Though in both circumstances, the Sterlings paid millions to avoid going to court, they insist on their innocence. Shelly Sterling recently told the LA Times that she never violated her tenants’ rights nor posed as a health inspector, arguing instead that she worked hard to improve the lives of her tenants:
"These allegations of racism are absolutely false. Everybody is equal in my eyes."