NBA owner faces uproar for recorded racist ideas

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Donald Sterling wasn't in a courtside seat Sunday afternoon, where he would've had an up-close view of what his coarse words and corrosive opinions did to his Los Angeles Clippers.

The team was drained and unenthusiastic despite a crucial National Basketball Association playoff game in Oakland, Calif., against the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers' most impactful action of a decisive 118-97 loss came during pregame warm-ups, when they gathered at midcourt and peeled off their team-issued warmup jackets to reveal red shirts turned inside-out to hide the team logo -- a sign of protest against the team's 80-year-old owner, who allegedly made racist remarks to a girlfriend that were recorded and posted Saturday on the TMZ website.

The report is the latest in a series of allegations of racial and gender discrimination against Mr. Sterling, a real estate mogul and the longest-tenured team owner in a league whose player pool is more than three-quarters African-American.

In the recording, a man identified as Mr. Sterling scolded the woman, identified as V. Stiviano, for posting to Instagram photographs of herself with African-Americans and for attending Clippers games with them.

"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people," the man said in the recording. "Do you have to?"

NBA commissioner Adam Silver asked Mr. Sterling to keep his distance from Sunday's game. Mr. Silver said at a news conference Saturday the league would investigate before deciding whether additional sanctions were necessary.

Clippers president Andy Roeser issued a statement Saturday, questioning the legitimacy of the recording and suggesting the audio was leaked for the purposes of revenge. He said the woman in the recording is the subject of an embezzlement lawsuit filed by the Sterling family.

Still, the ripples of Mr. Sterling's words -- and his reputation -- spread throughout the nation, prompting responses from the game's biggest stars and even the White House.

President Barack Obama said in reference to Mr. Sterling: "When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything. You just let them talk."

Mr. Sterling is scheduled to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People next month. After the release of Mr. Sterling's comments, the NAACP issued a statement asking that Mr. Sterling be withdrawn from the honoree list.

"We also suggest that African-Americans and Latinos should honor his request and not attend the games," the NAACP said in its statement. "If true, these are very hurtful remarks and Mr. Sterling, whose team talents and fan base is majority minority, should offer an apology to Californians."

LeBron James of the two-time defending champion Miami Heat said Saturday, "There's no room for Donald Sterling in our league." Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant posted on Twitter that he "couldn't play for him," and Michael Jordan, the NBA legend who is now the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, said he was "disgusted" by the comments attributed to Mr. Sterling.

Magic Johnson, another NBA legend who played in Los Angeles for the Lakers, was singled out in the recorded conversation as someone Ms. Stiviano, who is of black and Mexican descent and was believed to be Mr. Sterling's mistress, should avoid being seen with in public and at Clippers games. Magic Johnson responded to the report by posting on Twitter that he would no longer attend a Clippers game as long as Mr. Sterling owned the team.

Mr. Sterling's history paints a picture of a man who has let slip bigoted beliefs for years -- and has, at least so far, sidestepped major repercussions.


Bloomberg News contributed.


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