Los Angeles Clippers players wore their warmups inside-out—obscuring the team name—before their 118-97 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the teams' NBA playoff series Sunday as a protest to reports team owner Donald Sterling made racially tinged comments in an audio made public on social media.
The celebrity website TMZ.com released an audio Friday of a man it alleged to be Sterling telling a woman said to be his girlfriend not to bring black people to sit in her Clippers seats.
Another Internet site, Deadspin.com, on Sunday posted an "extended version" of the recorded conversation. That five-minute tape has the voice identified as Sterling say black Jews are treated "worse than dogs" in Jewish tradition and that he has no interest in changing that culture.
The NBA is investigating if the voice was indeed Sterling's, and said the three-decade owner of the team agreed not to attend Tuesday's NBA Playoffs game at Staples Center. Sterling's employees have implied the voice may not Sterling's, and said it was recorded by an employee accused of embezzling $1.8 million.
In the audio that has rocketed around the blogosphere, the voice identified as Sterling told his girlfriend that he did not want the woman to bring black men to Clippers games, or socialize with them publicly.
"You can sleep with them, you can bring them in, you can do whatever you want," the male voice said. "The little I ask is that you not promote it ... and not bring them to my games."
The man on the audio also criticized the woman for posting a photograph of her and former Laker star Earvin "Magic" Johnson on Instagram.
"Don't put him on Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me ... and don't bring him to any more games, OK?" said the voice identified by TMZ as Sterling.
Johnson responded to the comments via Twitter.
"L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling's comments about African Americans are a black eye for the NBA," Johnson said.
Clipper President Andy Roeser issued a statement offering a possibility the voice on the audio was not Sterling's.
"We have heard the tape on TMZ," Roeser said. "We do not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered. "We do know that the woman on the tape -- who we believe released it to TMZ -- 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.'
"Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect, his views, beliefs or feelings," Roeser said. "It is the antithesis of who he is what he believes and how he has lived his life. He feels terrible that such sentiments are being attributed to him and apologizes to anyone who might have been hurt by them.
"He is also upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him about Earvin Johnson," Roeser said. "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. We are investigating this matter."
Clipper coach Doc Rivers said at a Saturday news conference in San Francisco that the team to a person was angered by the developments.
"It upsets all of us," Rivers said. "There's not one guy on the team who's happy with this situation."
Rivers insisted, however, that he and Clipper players have cast the controversy aside in order to focus on the quest to win the franchise's first NBA championship.
Clipper point guard Chris Paul, president of the NBA players union, called the comments "a very serious issue that we will address aggressively."
But for now, Paul said, "As players, we owe it to our teams and our fans to keep out focus on the game, the playoffs, and the drive to the (NBA) Finals."
The national NAACP today said its Los Angeles affiliate would cancel its previous plans to honor Sterling at a dinner next month.
In Malaysia, U.S. President Barack Obama was asked about Sterling's purported comments.
"When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything, you just let them talk," Obama said. "That's what happened here."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Saturday in Memphis, Tenn., that an investigation into the matter will move quickly, with one of the primary intents to be determining if the voice on the audio is Sterling's.
Silver said the investigation will be completed in the next few days, possibly before the Clippers' Tuesday playoff game against Golden State at Staples Center, which he said Sterling has agreed not to attend.
"The audio recording posted by TMZ is truly offensive and disturbing and we intend to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible," Silver said. "I personally think the situation is most unfair to the Clippers players and coaches who have to deal with this distraction in the middle of their own highly competitive playoff series."
Silver stressed the importance of not rushing to judgment of Sterling, saying he deserves his day in court.
"All members of the NBA family should be afforded due process and a fair opportunity to present their side of any controversy, which is why I'm not yet prepared to discuss any potential sanctions against Donald Sterling," Silver said. "We will, however, move extraordinarily quickly in our investigation."
Last month, Sterling's wife, Rochelle filed suit against a female Clippers employee identified as V. Stiviano, claiming she had an affair with her husband and had schemed to embezzle $1.8 million from Sterling.
TMZ reported that the alleged audio of Sterling was recorded by Stiviano, described in the suit as a "personal assistant" to Sterling.
Sterling is no stranger to court proceedings.
In 2009, he paid a $2.73 million settlement to the Justice Department in a race-based rental discrimination suit for which he not required to admit wrongdoing.
In 2005, he paid an undisclosed amount of money in a suit alleging he tried to force non-Koreans out of Koreatown apartments he owned.—City News Service