Arts & Entertainment

NBA commissioner on Clippers owner Donald Sterling's alleged racist remarks: No sanctions yet

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Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling stands on the sidelines before a game.
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(2nd L) Los Angeles Clippers team owner Donald Sterling with girlfriend V. Stiviano watches the San Antonio Spurs play against the Memphis Grizzlies during Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on May 19, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas.
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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the press Saturday evening about the racist remarks allegedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Silver said that he was "not prepared yet to discuss any sanctions against Donald Sterling" and that all members of the NBA family should be afforded due process and the opportunity to present their side of the story.

"I think the situation is most unfair to the Clippers players and coaches," Silver said, due to the team having to deal with what Silver called a "distraction" in the middle of playoffs. He said he spoke with Clippers coach Doc Rivers and team star Chris Paul, who's also the president of the players union, to express those feelings.

Silver said the league would move "extraordinarily quickly" in their investigation and that Sterling had agreed not to attend Sunday's Clippers playoff game.

Silver said that the core of the league's investigation into Sterling's alleged comments is "understanding whether the tape is authentic." 

"We do hope to have this wrapped up in the next couple of days," Silver said.

The NBA is investigating a report of an audio recording in which a man purported to be Sterling makes racist remarks while speaking to his girlfriend, the Associated Press reports. KPCC has not yet confirmed the authenticity of the audio recording independently.

The Clippers released a statement from team president Andy Roeser Saturday afternoon:

“We have heard the tape on TMZ. 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.'"

The statement also included Sterling's response to the allegations:

"Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. 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. 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.”

RELATED: Jury delivers $17.3 million verdict against Clippers owner Donald Sterling

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, according to a statement released by the team.

"As far as the comments, we were not happy with any of them, but we’re going to let everything get handled and that situation will be dealt with later," he said, according to a press release. "we have something that we are playing for and we’re going to deal with that now. The other stuff we are going to deal with later.

"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 added. "Not splinter. Not walk. It's easy to protest. The protest will be in our play."

TMZ posted the clip and says it's Sterling, recorded in a telephone call with his girlfriend where he also asks her not to "promote" that she associates with black people by posting photos on social media.

According to TMZ, the incident happened after Sterling's girlfriend, V. Stiviano, put up a photo of herself with Magic Johnson on Instagram.

"Why are you taking pictures with minorities — why?" a man identified by TMZ as Sterling said on the tape. "It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people."

He said she could do anything she wanted with minorities — including have sex with them — but didn't want her to bring them to Clippers games or post pictures with minorities on social media.

Stiviano is black and Mexican.

Magic Johnson commented on the audio Saturday morning on Twitter and vowed to never go to another Clippers game while Sterling owned the team.

Magic Johnson tweet 1

Magic Johnson tweet 2

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Magic Johnson tweet 4

"I thought we were friends," Johnson told TMZ. "We've broken bread together several times.  It's almost like, do you smile in my face but behind my back you talk about me? I'd have felt better in 1979 if you would have just told me you don't like African-Americans, and then I would have known how to deal with you."

"He wants our money but doesn't want us to show up," Johnson said. "He has to step down or sell the team."

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, the AP reports.

"We are in the process of conducting a full investigation into the audio recording obtained by TMZ," Bass said in the statement. "The remarks heard on the recording are disturbing and offensive, but at this time we have no further information."

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, through a spokesperson, condemned the "statements and sentiments" attributed to Sterling, the L.A. Times reports, while Councilman Bernard Parks said the Council should take a formal position on Sterling's alleged statements.

"Statements like this happen way too routinely to view an apology as sufficient," Parks said, according to the Times. "The league needs to take action, much as they did in the Marge Schott situation in Cincinnati, where they went through multiple suspensions because of her derogatory and racist remarks, and then eventually forced her to sell her franchise."

Council President Herb Wesson also condemned the remarks, the Times reports.

Clippers player Chris Paul released a statement through the players union that said "this is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively," the AP reports. Paul and Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin declined further comment on the issue after the team's practice at the University of San Francisco. Other players were not made available as Rivers said he would speak for the team.

"A lot of guys voiced their opinions. None of them were happy about it," Rivers said, the AP reports. "This was a situation where we're trying to go after something very important for us, something that we've all dreamed about all our childhoods. Donald or anyone else had nothing to do with that dream, and we're not going to let anything get in the way of those dreams."

The report blew up on social media Saturday morning, with some calling for the team to refuse to play until Sterling apologizes, and others saying they'll stop going to games. Several Sterling-related items made Twitter's trending topics, including #BoycottClippers and #ClippersOwnerIsARacist.

Several other celebrities and players have reacted on social media, condemning Sterling's alleged comments, including rappers Snoop Dogg and Chuck D, "Anchorman" director Adam McKay, comedian Kevin Hart, the Roots' Questlove, former NBA VP and coach Stu Jackson, former Clippers player Baron Davis and former Laker James Worthy.

Adam McKay's tweet

Questlove's tweet

Stu Jackson tweet

Stu Jackson tweet

Baron Davis tweet

James Worthy tweet

Kevin Hart's Instagram

The Rev. Al Sharpton also issued a statement on Sterling's alleged comments.

"The NBA must investigate L.A. Clippers owner, Donald Sterling’s, recent racial comments that were caught on tape and discipline him," Sharpton said in his statement. "No one should be allowed to own a team if they have in fact engaged in this kind of racial language. We are prepared at National Action Network to rally in front of the NBA headquarters if this matter is not immediately dealt with."

The L.A. chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been scheduled to give Sterling a lifetime achievement award on May 15 at their 100th anniversary event, according to their website. Mayor Garcetti and the Rev. Sharpton have also been scheduled to receive person of the year awards at that event. The larger NAACP organization urged their L.A. branch to withdraw Sterling from the honoree list.

The AP reports that on TNT's halftime studio show Saturday, 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 Game 5 of the Clippers-Warriors series Tuesday night in Los Angeles, according to the AP.

In Dallas, where the Spurs were getting ready to play the Mavericks, the AP reports that San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said: "The comments are obviously disgusting."

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said "I have plenty of opinions, just not going to share them," according to the AP, fending off several inquiries before saying: "Obviously, if any business or entrepreneur says or does things that aren't congruent with what the organization is trying to convey, that's a problem. But it's not my problem."

The AP reports that Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who played for the Clippers in 1992-93, said of Sterling's comments: "My feeling would be the same, no matter if I was coaching, playing or a fan. There's no place for it."

Sterling, a real estate owner, bought the Clippers in 1981, according to the AP. 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, according to the AP, although in recent years he has spent heavily to add stars such as Paul and Rivers, who is in his first year as coach. Sterling has been involved in several lawsuits over the years, including ones with accusations of discrimination.

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, according to the AP. 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, according to the AP. 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, according to the AP. 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.

The Clippers were practicing in San Francisco ahead of Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, the AP reports. Los Angeles leads 2-1.

This story has been updated.