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Racist comments attributed to L.A. Clippers owner dominate Sunday shows

An audio recording of a conversation between Donald Sterling and V. Stiviano (at right during a game last October) has sparked controversy. (Mark J. Terrill / AP)

The audio recording that allegedly caught Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling telling his girlfriend that he did not want her bringing African Americans to games or taking pictures with them dominated the Sunday morning political shows this week. 

Those comments, posted Saturday by TMZ, have created a firestorm. The NBA is investigating, and several prominent current and former players say they believe Sterling must be removed from the league.

President Obama called the comments “incredibly offensive racist statements” during a news conference in Malaysia.

“When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk,” Obama said.

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Several of the Sunday political shows featured robust discussions about Sterling and racism — with mentions also of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who had an armed standoff with federal agents, who made racist comments this past week.

Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," civil rights activist and MSNBC host Al Sharpton said that Sterling should be suspended. "Clearly the National Basketball Association must suspend him," he said. "You can not have someone own an NBA team in this country and have these kind of attitudes."

Interim NAACP President Lorraine Miller told "Meet the Press" host David Gregory that the comments attributed to Sterling are representative of a larger issue in American culture.

"I think there's a much more serious issue here. I think that we have to see if the obligations that we had in the Emancipation Proclamation have been filled. Is there equality of opportunity in this country? Is there really equality in the law?" Miller said. "I think for the American public, as Reverend Al was saying, if you're silent about this, then you're accepting this. And people have got to say that this is not good, and do something about it."

At another point in the broadcast, Bryant Gumbel, who hosts HBO's "Real Sports," said that the controversy surrounding Sterling should not take anyone by surprise.

"I guess I'm surprised that anyone is surprised. I mean Donald Sterling's reputation is such that one could say if you keep a vicious dog for a while and you know he's vicious, you can't be surprised when they bite someone," Gumbel said. "Donald Sterling's racial history is on the record. It has cost him money. It cost him his reputation long before this."

Meanwhile, on CBS' "Face the Nation," the comments attributed to Sterling were condemned by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D- Mo.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) in separate interviews.

“In our country, we have a First Amendment which allows ignorant racists to say whatever they want to say. “However, I hope the NBA takes swift action against this man.” McCaskill said. “I can’t imagine how it must feel to be one of the African Americans playing on his team, how they must feel today, knowing that the owner of the team is obviously such an ignorant racist."

Later in the program, Corker said:

“It’s just outrageous in 2014 that comments like these are being made. I thought the president’s response was appropriate, and I don’t know what else to add to it.”

Wesley Lowery is a national reporter covering law enforcement and justice for the Washington Post. He previously covered Congress and national politics.

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