Updated with Clippers’ statement at 5:45 p.m. EDT
Los Angeles Clippers players met privately to discuss an audio recording in which a man purported to be the team’s owner, Donald Sterling, told his girlfriend not to bring blacks to “his games” and criticized her for posting an Instagram photo of her with Magic Johnson. The NBA, Commissioner Adam Silver announced, is investigating the matter.
Players, according to the Los Angeles Daily News, were angry after TMZ posted the recording of an alleged exchange between the two in which a man identified as Sterling asks V. Stiviano, “Why are you taking pictures with minorities? Why?” Stiviano, who is of black and Latin heritage, replies: “People call you and tell you that I have black people on my Instagram, and it bothers you?” Sterling: “Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo… broadcast that you’re associating with black people.”
The man tells Stiviano several times during the call that he does not hate minorities, but Stiviano tells him: “I’m sorry that you’re still racist in your heart.” Stiviano has deleted the photo of her and Johnson.
Clippers President Andy Roeser said in a statement: “We have heard the tape on TMZ. We do not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered. 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, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life. He feels terrible that such sentiments are being attributed to him and apologizes to anyone who might have been hurt by them. He is also upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him about Earvin Johnson. He has long considered Magic a friend and has only the utmost respect and admiration for him–both in terms of who he is and what he has achieved. We are investigating this matter.”
Sterling, whose age is listed as 80 or 81, has owned the team since 1981 and, after years of frugal spending and dreadful records, he now has assembled a star-studded roster for Coach Doc Rivers. Two of his players are active in union affairs, with Chris Paul the president of the National Basketball Players Association and Willie Green on the executive committee. Although it isn’t immediately clear how players felt, Vincent Bonsignore of the Daily News reports that their reaction was strong and DeAndre Jordan Instagrammed an image of blackness, presumably in response. “We are in the process of conducting a full investigation into the audio recording obtained by TMZ,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.”The remarks heard on the recording are disturbing and offensive, but at this time we have no further information. ”
This Donald Sterling stuff puts Chris Paul, Blake Griffin DeAndre Jordan etc..in and incredibly awkward position. #Clippers— Vincent Bonsignore (@DailyNewsVinny) April 26, 2014
Needless to say, there is tremendous anger among the #Clippers players— Vincent Bonsignore (@DailyNewsVinny) April 26, 2014
I would say that Adam Silver has a PR issue on his hands with this TMZ audio. what would David do? http://t.co/Af2PEYhQLN— Harvey Araton (@HarveyAraton) April 26, 2014
I put this on Instagram and Donald Sterling told me not to bring anymore black people to GameDay. :( pic.twitter.com/zC6Au0dFgd— Desmond Howard (@DesmondHoward) April 26, 2014
If confirmed that is Donald Sterling’s voice on the TMZ audio, Adam Silver must find a way to force him out of the league.— Ian O’Connor (@Ian_OConnor) April 26, 2014
Magic Johnson told TMZ: “It’s a shame that Donald Sterling feels that way about African-Americans.” The report was quickly rippling through the NBA and reaction on Twitter was swift.
Donald Sterling’s comments were major topic of discussion among Heat players on bus.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 26, 2014
I wonder what the @LAClippers players text messages amongst each other look like right now…. I guarantee you there’s some good stuff there— Donte’ Stallworth (@DonteStallworth) April 26, 2014
As @DailyNewsVinny has reported, Clippers players are irate at having to deal with Donald Sterling’s latest racially-charged remarks.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) April 26, 2014
What’s crazy is that it takes this audio to get everyone rilled up when transcripts from his housing discrimination have been out for years— Nate Jones (@JonesOnTheNBA) April 26, 2014
Sterling, who is scheduled to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP next month, has a history of accusations of discrimination, as ESPN the Magazine documented in 2009 and Jeff Pearlman has written. In November 2009, Sterling agreed to pay $2.73 million to settle allegations by the Justice Department that he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics and blacks and to families with children. In March 2011, Sterling won a lawsuit filed by Elgin Baylor, the team’s former general manager, when a jury rejected his claim of wrongful termination and age discrimination.
This embarrassing incident comes as the Clippers are preparing for Game 4 of their NBA playoff series against the Golden State Warriors. Sterling usually does not travel with the team, which means that he isn’t likely to be seen until the team’s next home game Tuesday. He usually sits courtside at those. Adam Silver, the NBA’s new commissioner, is expected to attend Sunday’s game and, already in his tenure, one of the very, very rich men who employ him has put him in a very difficult position.
Forcing Donald Sterling out of NBA will be hard. He might sue NBA for breach of franchise agreement & sue other owners under antitrust law.— Michael McCann (@McCannSportsLaw) April 26, 2014
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