The NBA on Saturday said it was investigating racist comments that were allegedly made by Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, during a recorded conversation. Meanwhile, players, coaches and fans condemned the remarks and called for various forms of sanctions against the embattled billionaire.
Sterling made the controversial statements in an argument with his girlfriend V. Stiviano on April 9, according to TMZ, which posted the audio recording on Friday.
During the 10-minute exchange, Sterling allegedly criticized Stiviano for publishing a photo of herself with Lakers legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson on social media.
“In your lousy f——— Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with — walking with black people,” the man in the audio said.
“If it’s white people, it’s OK? If it was Larry Bird, would it make a difference?” the woman responded, referring to the Boston Celtics Hall of Famer.
“I’ve known [Johnson] well and he should be admired. … I’m just saying that it’s too bad you can’t admire him privately,” the man on the recording said. “Admire him, bring him here, feed him, f— him, but don’t put [Johnson] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”
Johnson responded Saturday on Twitter, as did several other former and current NBA players.
“I will never go to a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner,” Johnson wrote. “I feel sorry for my friends Coach Doc Rivers and Chris Paul that they have to work for a man that feels that way about African Americans.”
At a news conference in South Los Angeles, civil rights activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson demanded that Sterling issue a public apology.
“If you’ve noticed, there’s been no remark from him. There’s been no show of remorse, and he’s had an opportunity,” said Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. “So the pattern is set.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who succeeded David Stern in February, said that “all members of the NBA family should be afforded due process and a fair opportunity to present their side of any controversy.”
Silver added that Sterling had agreed not to attend the Clippers’ playoff game against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
Although Sterling himself has not spoken publicly about the controversy, Clippers President Andy Roeser said in a statement that the organization’s owner is “upset” and has “the utmost respect” for Johnson.
“We have heard the tape on TMZ. We do not know if it is legitimate or [if] it has been altered,” the statement said. “We do know that the woman on the tape — who we believe released it to TMZ — is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by the Sterling family alleging that she embezzled more than $1.8 million, who told Mr. Sterling that she would ‘get even.’
“Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, or does it reflect his views, beliefs, or feelings,” Roeser continued. “It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life.”
Silver said the NBA’s investigation into the matter “will move extraordinary quickly.”
“We plan to have this wrapped up in the next few days,” he said.