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Donald Sterling wasn't the first: Three notorious owners of sports teams

The sports world is not lacking in outrageous owners. It is a world of brash powerful people who are used to getting their ways and treating their teams as a personal toy.

But among all the colourful, controversial characters in professional sports, only a few manage to combine poor judgment, offensive views and shamelessness like Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Sterling is now under fire because he is allegedly heard making racists comments on an audio recording.

Few others could claim that degree of infamy. Here are three candidates:

David Kohl/Associated Press

Marge Schott

The widow of a wealthy industrialist, she was the first woman to have bought a major league baseball team when she took over the Cincinnati Reds. At first, she was seen as a colourful eccentric character, chain-smoking and always in the company of her St. Bernard dog.
Her sharp tongue, antique views and taste for alcohol were her undoing. In 1992, her chief financial officer revealed in a court deposition that she called her star outfielders Eric Davis and Dave Parker as her "million-dollar niggers." Another employee alleged that he heard her say that "sneaky goddamn Jews are all alike."
She kept a Nazi armband with a swastika in her home -- just a souvenir, she said. Then, in an interview, she said that "Hitler was good in the beginning, but he went too far."
Major League Baseball suspended her from day-to-day oversight of the team for the duration of the 1993 season.
The loose-lips remarks continued. She said didn’t want her players to wear jewellery on their ears because "only fruits wear earrings." She talked about Hitler again.
Under pressure, she had to relinquish control of the team in 1999.

Franz Maier for The Globe and Mail

Harold Ballard

During the three decades he owned a stake in the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was a crass, cantankerous micro-manager who turned the team into a national laughingstock.
He removed a portrait of the Queen to make room for more seats, saying, “What the hell position can a Queen play?”
He feuded with players and coaches, including Roger Neilson, who was fired, then reinstated two days later and was asked to wear a bag over his head while he stood behind the bench.
Convicted on 47 of 49 counts of fraud, theft and tax evasion, he spent a year at Millhaven Penitentiary,  then went back to managing the team.
When he was asked about the poor performance of the Leafs, he would reply: “Our stock’s all right, and we’re making money, so what the hell do we care?”
Remo Casilli/Reuters

Silvio Berlusconi

A media baron, owner of the AC Milan soccer team and four-time Italian prime minister, he saw his career end in disgrace when he was convicted of tax fraud.
In addition to the tax case, he is facing a seven-year jail sentence for paying for sex with an underaged prostitute. The case revealed that he organized swimming pool parties at his villa outside Milan where a bevy of young women cavorted nude in the water in a ritual called “bunga-bunga.”
Even before the sex scandals, he was known for a string of diplomatic gaffes such as praising Barack Obama's for his “suntanned” good looks. 
In 2003, he said of Martin Schulz , a German member of the European Parliament, that he should be cast as a concentration camp Kapo. Revisiting the furor more than a decade later, he upset Germans again this month by claiming that they still deny the existence of concentration camps.

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