NBA Probes Alleged Tape of Clippers Owner
The NBA is investigating a report of an audio recording in which a man identified as Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling tells his girlfriend not to bring black people to games.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement Saturday that the league is in the process of authenticating the validity of the recording posted on TMZ’s website. Bass called the comments “disturbing and offensive” and said the league would have no further comment.
Messages seeking comment from the Clippers were not immediately returned.
In the recording posted on TMZ, the man questions his girlfriend’s association with minorities. TMZ reported the woman, V. Stiviano, who is of black and Mexican descent, posted a picture of herself with Lakers Hall of Famer Magic 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 Magic 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 Clippers coach Doc Rivers and Clippers point guard Chris Paul had to work for Sterling.
Former Clippers guard Baron Davis wrote on Twitter that Sterling’s discrimination has been “going on for a long time.”
New NBA commissioner Adam Silver was scheduled to address media Saturday night in Memphis before the Grizzlies’ playoff game.
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.”
A spokeswoman for the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Jacky Johnson, said the organization planned a protest outside Tuesday night’s NBA playoff game in Los Angeles.
In Dallas, where the Spurs were getting ready to play the Mavericks, San Antonio coach Gregg Popvich said: “The comments are obviously disgusting.”
The Clippers were practicing in San Francisco ahead of Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday. Los Angeles leads 2-1.
Rivers and players were scheduled to speak to reporters at 12:30 p.m. PDT Saturday before they practiced at the University of San Francisco.
Sterling, a real estate mogul, bought the Clippers in 1981. He is the longest-tenured owner in the NBA since Lakers owner Jerry Buss died last year.
He has been frequently criticized for his frugal operation of the Clippers, although in recent years he has spent heavily to add stars such as Paul and Rivers, who led the team back to the playoffs in his first year as coach.
Sterling has been involved in several lawsuits over the years, including ones with discrimination accusations.
In November 2009, Sterling agreed to pay $2.73 million to settle allegations by the government that he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics and blacks and to families with children. The Justice Department sued Sterling in August 2006 for allegations of housing discrimination in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles.
In March 2011, Sterling won a lawsuit against former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor when a jury rejected the Hall of Famer’s claim of age discrimination and harassment. Baylor, who was 76 at the time, had sought about $2 million after claiming he was forced out of the job he had held for 22 years. The team said Baylor left on his own and a jury awarded him nothing.
Sterling is a courtside fixture at Clippers home games. But he rarely visits the team’s locker room at Staples Center, although he made an appearance in December 2012 after they had won their 11th straight game, when he led an awkward locker room cheer.
AP Sports Writer Beth Harris in Mesa, Ariz., Schuyler Dixon in Dallas, and Rick Freeman in New York contributed to this story.