Alleged racist remarks by Clippers owner Sterling ignite uproar
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling stands on the sidelines before a game on May 5, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California - by Stephen Dunn
The uproar began when TMZ's website provided audio it claimed came from an April 9 argument between Sterling and his girlfriend, identified only as V. Stiviano, over a photograph she posted on Instagram with Johnson, a legend for the Los Angeles Lakers in his playing days.
"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you are associating with black people. Do you have to?" Sterling allegedly said.
"You can sleep with (black people). You can bring them in. You can do whatever you want. The little I ask is not to promote it on that ... and not to bring them to my games.
"In your lousy ... Instagrams you don't have to have yourself walking with black people."
The NBA has started an investigation into the remarks, league spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement.
"The remarks heard on the recording are disturbing and offensive, but at this time we have no further information," he added.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver is expected to comment on the matter, and possibly announce disciplinary action, later Saturday.
The Clippers lead the Golden State Warriors two games to one in a best-of-seven first-round playoff series that continues Sunday.
Johnson reacted on Twitter vowing that he and his wife Cookie would never attend another Clippers game as long as Sterling owns the team.
"I feel sorry for my friends Coach Doc Rivers and Chris Paul that they have to work for a man that feels that way about African Americans," he added.
"LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling's comments about African Americans are a black eye for the NBA."
- Woman vowed to 'get even' -
The Clippers have launched their own probe of the comments, team president Andy Roeser said in a statement given to ESPN.
Roeser said the remarks on the recording do not reflect Sterling's opinions on race and that the woman identified as Stiviano is involved in a legal dispute with Sterling.
The woman "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's statement said.
"Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings," the statement added, noting the team was unsure whether the recording "has been altered."
"He feels terrible that such sentiments are being attributed to him and apologizes to anyone who might have been hurt by them," it said, adding Sterling's apologies "for sentiments attributed to him about Earvin (Magic) 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."
But Sterling, who has owned the Clippers since 1981, has expressed racist sentiments before, according to a tweet from former Clipper standout Baron Davis.
"That's the way it is...He is honest about what he believes in..Been going on for a long time, Hats off 2 the Team.. 4 playin above it all," Davis wrote.
The Clippers have not gone past the first round of the playoffs under Sterling.
Jesse Jackson, an outspoken African-American leader and former US Presidential candidate, called for fans to boycott Clippers' games starting immediately.
"If we are just going from picking cotton balls to picking basketballs, then we are not making progress. It's about dignity," Jackson told ESPN.
Jackson also called for action to be taken by the league before the weekend was over.
Sterling was fined $2.7 million in 2009 by the US Justice Department to settle allegations he discriminated against African-Americans, Hispanics and families with children at Los Angeles apartment buildings he controls.
In 2011, Sterling won a lawsuit filed by former Clipper general manager Elgin Baylor, who accused the club of firing him based upon his age.