The L.A. Clippers are licking their wounds this morning after a 118-97 trouncing at the hands of the Golden State Warriors yesterday afternoon, but the wounds run far deeper this playoff season after reports surfaced over the weekend about Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his alleged views on race.
TMZ released a tape that it says came from Sterling's former girlfriend in which he allegedly asks her not to post photos with African-Americans, including Magic Johnson, on her Instagram account.
TMZ has not said how it obtained the recording and the woman on the other end of the conversation, V. Stiviano, denied through her lawyer that she leaked it, but says it's authentic. (KPCC has not independently verified the authenticity of the recording.)
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.”
Lakers President Jeanie Buss issued a statement in regards to alleged comments by Clippers owner Donald Sterling:
"The comments and sentiments expressed on the tape are reprehensible and disturbing, and certainly are the opposite of how the Lakers feel about the league’s players and fans. I have full confidence that Adam Silver and the NBA will handle this situation appropriately."
As did the STAPLES Center:
"We are deeply troubled by these disturbing remarks which go against everything we believe in as an organization. We support the players, the coaches, the rest of the team and their fans and we are committed to providing a safe, secure and welcoming environment for everyone at tomorrow night’s NBA playoff game."
Among the issues raised by the unfolding scandal are the business issues involving the NBA and the role of powerful owners in a sport dominated and driven by black athletes and professional staff.
"It's just sad because not only did Donald Sterling dehumanize an entire population of people and the fans, but it really put the brakes on what has been kind of a triumph period for the NBA," said Kevin Arnovitz, who writes the TrueHoop blog for ESPN.com.
L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez has had a couple encounters with Sterling and his wife, including an awkward conversation that happened court side:
"Mr. Sterling asked me if I knew anything about basketball and I said, 'You know, I've not played in the NBA, but I know a little bit. Sure, why?' And he said please sit next to my wife. Please sit next to her so you can talk to her. She likes to talk basketball. So she proceeded to trash some of the players on her own team, the Clippers team, which I found a little bit strange, but there's a lot that's strange with this couple."
So what happens next? Lopez thinks that Sterling has only one choice in the matter if the voice on the tape can be verified.
"I think that the best thing, what I would like to see happen, is that Sterling looks at this and says, 'OK, I spent $12 million to buy this thing, it's worth almost $1 billion. I'm going to sell it and crawl into a hole somewhere and disappear,'" said Lopez on Take Two.
This scandal is overshadowing the Clippers' great season and current run in the playoffs. Players at Sunday's game against the Golden State Warriors wore their jersey's inside out to protest Sterling's alleged comments.
Lopez says Sterling is unlikely to recover his reputation after this.
"Down the line another reason why he should maybe consider selling is that...who's going to want to come and play here now?" said Lopez. "This is not something that's going to go away as long as he owns the team. There's nothing he can say to make it go away."