Anger, frustration and calls for action echoed around the NBA on Saturday after an audio recording surfaced of a man identified as Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to games.
Everybody except for the embattled Clippers owner, who has a decades-long history of alleged discrimination and offensive behavior, seemed to have a response.
The league said it was investigating the recording posted on TMZ’s website, calling the comments “disturbing and offensive.” Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, a target of Sterling’s remarks, said he wouldn’t attend Clippers’ games as long as Sterling was the owner. Miami Heat star LeBron James asked new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to take aggressive measures, saying “there is no room for Donald Sterling in our league.”
“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 don’t know what it will be, but we can’t have that in our league.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said players discussed boycotting Game 4 of their first-round playoff series at Golden State on Sunday 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.”
Clippers President Andy Roeser said in a statement that the team did not know if the tape is legitimate or has been altered. He said the woman on the tape, identified by TMZ as V. Stiviano, “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.”’
Roeser also said the recording does not reflect Sterling’s beliefs. He added that Sterling is “upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him” about Johnson, whom he called Sterling’s friend.
In the recording posted on TMZ, the man questions his girlfriend’s association with minorities. TMZ reported Stiviano, who is of black and Mexican descent, posted a picture of herself with Johnson on Instagram — which has since been removed.
The man asked Stiviano not to broadcast her association with black people or bring black people to games. The man specifically mentioned Johnson on the recording, saying “don’t bring him to my games, OK?”
“I will never go to a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner,” Johnson responded on Twitter. He also said the alleged comments are “a black eye for the NBA” and said he felt bad that friends such as Rivers and Clippers point guard Chris Paul had to work for Sterling.
Paul released a statement through the players’ union that said “this is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively.” He also said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star guard who is the chairman of a search committee to find a new director for the union, would take a leading role to help players address the matter.