An audio recording in which a man, identified by celebrity news organization TMZ as Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, makes racist remarks has launched an NBA investigation and sparked outrage from around the NBA.
In the recording, which was posted on TMZ's website late Friday, a man alleged to be Sterling can be heard telling his girlfriend, identified as model V Stiviano, that he was upset that she posted a picture of herself with Lakers legend Magic Johnson on her Instagram account.
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"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people,'' the man alleged to be Sterling says. He asks Stiviano, who is identified by TMZ as of black and Mexican descent, not to bring black people "to my games.''
The man specifically mentioned Johnson on the recording, saying "don't bring him to my games, OK?"
The Clippers issued a statement Saturday in which team president Andy Roeser questioned the validity of the recording and said "Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect, his views, beliefs or feelings."
Roeser said Sterling is "upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him" about Johnson, whom he called Sterling's friend.
Johnson, a minority owner of the Lakers, said on Twitter Saturday that he "will never go to a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner.'' Johnson also tweeted that he "feels 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.''
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement Saturday that the "remarks heard on the recording are disturbing and offensive'' and said the league is conducting a full investigation.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver, in Memphis Saturday night to attend the Grizzlies-Thunder playoff game, said there will be no immediate sanctions until Sterling and the woman on the tape are interviewed and the authenticity is verified.
"All members of the NBA family should be afforded due process and a fair opportunity to present their side of any controversy, which is why I'm not yet prepared to discuss any potential sanctions against Donald Sterling," he said. "We will, however, move extraordinarily quickly in our investigation. In the meantime, Mr. Sterling has agreed he will not attend his playoff game [Sunday at Golden State].'' Silver added, "We do hope to have this wrapped up in the next few days."
On TNT's halftime studio show, host Charles Barkley said: "This is the first test of Adam Silver. He's got to suspend him right now. First of all, they've got to prove that's his voice on that tape. But this is the first big test for Adam Silver. You can't have this guy making statements like that. You have to suspend him and fine him immediately."
The Clippers are coached by Rivers, who is black, and are led by black stars such as Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford.
Rivers said players discussed boycotting Sunday's game during a 45-minute team meeting but quickly decided against it. "I think the biggest statement we can make as men, not as black men, as men, is to stick together and show how strong we are as a group,'' Rivers said. "Not splinter. Not walk. It's easy to protest. The protest will be in our play."
Rivers added, "A lot of guys voiced their opinions. None of them were happy about it. This was a situation where we're trying to go after something very important for us, something that we've all dreamed about all our childhoods. Donald or anyone else had nothing to do with that dream, and we're not going to let anything get in the way of those dreams."
LeBron James, the NBA's reigning Most Valuable player, said "there's no room for Donald Sterling in the NBA.''
"Obviously, if the reports are true, it's unacceptable in our league," James said. "It doesn't matter, white, black or Hispanic -- all across the races, it's unacceptable. As the commissioner of our league, they have to make a stand. They have to be very aggressive with it . . . I can only imagine if a player came out and said something of that stature what would happen."
Former Knicks coach Mike Woodson, who was fired last week, said he wouldn't work for Sterling if allegations are proven accurate. "No, if this comes out to be true, absolutely not," he said Saturday night on NBA TV. "But again, we've got to let this unfold and see where we are with it."
Raptors guard DeMar DeRozen -- who grew up in Compton, 10 miles south of the Staples Center, the arena shared by the Clippers and Lakers -- said it will be interesting to see what the NBA does with the situation. He also said he doesn't think he could play for the Clippers. "I don't blame Magic Johnson for saying he wouldn't go. I wouldn't either,'' he said. "Could I play for a guy like that? I don't know. I don't stand for stuff like that. It would be tough.''
The Nets' Shaun Livingston, a Clipper for three seasons, said the news wasn't a big surprise to him. "That was crazy,'' he said. "You look at it, it probably was disappointing to a lot of people. But you look at what's kind of gone on in the past, it's unfortunate, but I think it kind of tells the same story.''
Former Clippers guard Baron Davis wrote on Twitter that Sterling's discrimination has been "going on for a long time."
The Rev. Al Sharpton promised to hold a rally outside NBA headquarters in Manhattan and outside Tuesday night's Warriors-Clippers playoff game in Los Angeles. The National Basketball Players Association urged the league to take "strong and swift action'' if the report is true.
Paul, who is president of the Players Association, issued a statement Saturday along with Kevin Johnson, the former NBA player who now is the mayor of Sacramento and serves as a union adviser.
"On behalf of the National Basketball Players Association, this is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively,'' Paul said. "We have asked Mayor Kevin Johnson to expand his responsibilities with the NBPA to determine our response and our next steps. As players, we owe it to our teams and our fans to keep our focus on our game, the playoffs and the drive to the Finals.''
Said Kevin Johnson: "The reported comments made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling are reprehensible and unacceptable . . . There needs to be an immediate investigation, and if the reports are true, there needs to be strong and swift action taken. I have spoken with NBPA president Chris Paul and will be leading the NBPA in addressing the implications of this serious matter.''
Sterling, who has owned the Clippers since 1981, has been involved in two discrimination-related lawsuits. In 2009, he paid $2.725 million to settle a housing discrimination suit brought by the Justice Department that accused Sterling of systematically driving African-Americans, Latinos and families with children out of the apartment buildings he owned. Former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor unsuccessfully sued Sterling for age and racial discrimination in 2009.
With Roderick Boone,
and The Associated Press