Conversation of the Week LXXXI: NBA Is Probing Racist Recording of the L. A. Clippers Owner in Midst of NBA Playoff Games

April 28, 2014
Written by Antonio Gonzalez in
National Collegiate Dialogue
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In this Monday, Dec. 19, 2010 photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling watches the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers. On Saturday, April 26, 2014, the NBA said it is investigating a report of an audio recording in which a man purported to be Sterling makes racist remarks while speaking to his girlfriend.
In this Monday, Dec. 19, 2010 photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling watches the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers. On Saturday, April 26, 2014, the NBA said it is investigating a report of an audio recording in which a man purported to be Sterling makes racist remarks while speaking to his girlfriend. Photo Credit: The Associated Press, Danny Moloshok.

The NBA is probing the racist recording of L. A. Clippers owner in the midst of the NBA playoff games. Anger, frustration and calls for action echoed around the NBA on Saturday after an audio recording surfaced of a man identified as Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to games.

Everybody except for the embattled Clippers owner, who has a decades-long history of discrimination and offensive behavior, seemed to have a response. The league said it was investigating the recording posted on TMZ's website, calling the comments "disturbing and offensive."

President Barack Obama, asked to respond at a news conference with Malaysia's prime minister during Obama's visit to the country Sunday, called the reported remarks "incredibly offensive racist statements."

"I don't think I have to interpret those statements for you, they kind of speak for themselves," Obama said. "When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything. You just let them talk. And that's what happened here."

Obama also expressed confidence the NBA would address the situation, and said the United States still wrestles with "the legacy of race and slavery and segregation."

"Obviously, the NBA is a league that is beloved by fans all across the country," Obama said. "It's got an awful lot of African-American players. It's steeped in African-American culture. And, I suspect that the NBA is going to be deeply concerned in resolving this."

Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, a target of Sterling's remarks, said he wouldn't attend Clippers' games as long as Sterling was the owner. Miami Heat star LeBron James asked new NBA commissioner Adam Silver to take aggressive measures, saying "there is no room for Donald Sterling in our league."

"Obviously, if the reports are true it's unacceptable in our league," James said. "It doesn't matter, white, black or Hispanic - all across the races it's unacceptable. As the commissioner of our league they have to make a stand. They have to be very aggressive with it. I don't know what it will be, but we can't have that in our league."

Silver spoke Saturday night in Memphis, Tennessee, before the Grizzlies' game against Oklahoma City, repeating that the league finds the audio tape "disturbing and offensive" and that Sterling agreed to not attend the Clippers' game Sunday at Golden State.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver answers questions during a news conference before Game 4 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, April 26, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn.

"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."

Silver said the NBA needs to confirm authenticity of the audio tape and interview both Sterling and the woman in the recording. The Clippers will be back in Los Angeles for Game 5 on Tuesday night. "We do hope to have this wrapped up in the next few days," Silver said.

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

Clippers President Andy Roeser said in a statement that the team did not know if the tape was legitimate or has been altered. He said the woman on the tape, identified by TMZ as V. Stiviano, "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 also said the recording does not reflect Sterling's beliefs. He also said Sterling was "upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him" about Johnson, whom he called Sterling's friend.

In the recording, the man questions his girlfriend's association with minorities. TMZ reported Stiviano, who is of black and Mexican descent, posted a picture of herself with 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 Johnson on the recording, saying "don't bring him to my games, OK?"

In this photo taken on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, right, and V. Stiviano, left, watch the Clippers play the Sacramento Kings. NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement Saturday, April 26, 2014, 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."

"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 Rivers and Clippers point guard Chris Paul had to work for Sterling. Paul released a statement through the players union that said "this is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively."

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. "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."

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 in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Sterling, a real estate owner, 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 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. 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.

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.

Editor's Note: What do you think should happen to L.A. Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, if the tape of his racist comments turns out to be authentic?

AP Sports Writer Beth Harris in Mesa, Arizona, Schuyler Dixon in Dallas, and Rick Freeman in New York contributed to this story.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

National Collegiate Dialogue


And the NAACP Award Goes to...

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-35 on

Hello Mr. Donald Sterling and thank you so much for revealing yourself to all of us, great job! From what I have read, however, you have been in trouble before for racist real estate practices - housing discrimination which oppressed ethnic minorities. If the speaker can be confirmed on the tape, then Sterling should be forced out of the NBA permanently. He should not be allowed to own an NBA team. I guess I feel most sorry for the LA Clipper team (who did nothing wrong), not only the players but the entire franchise. Also, I feel sorry for African Americans in the Clipper organization, but I also feel for all his employees regardless of skin color for his shameful, shameful remarks, ludicrous comments, and Cro-Magnon mentality. I wonder if "ignorance is bliss" now, since his racist views have been put forward for everyone in the world to see and hear. Good luck with that one buddy!


You're right

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-10 on

I feel sorry for the LA Clipper team as well. They are going to be greatly effected by the comments Sterling made. They will especially be effected if the NBA doesn't get rid of Sterling. No one is going to want to pay for the team anymore and no one will come to there games. There are pros and cons to this. Many NBA players that play for this team could lose their job and not find work elsewhere, but if all bad things happen to the team Sterling will still be forced out of the NBA and potentially go bankrupted. It is sad that the team has to be effected because of Sterling's ignorance.

I don't believe the NBA will

Submitted by PARKS2014-29 on

I don't believe the NBA will allow Sterling to be part of the NBA anymore because of his remarks. I don't think people will punish the LA Clipper team as long as Sterling is not part of it.

To: Parks2014-29

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-31 on

With companies pulling their sponsorship involving the clippers, it does effect those who were specifically chosen to represent the team in the commercials since a percentage of that money did go to Sterling.

I agree

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-07 on

If the audio recordings are of Sterling, then I agree, the NBA should get rid of him. That being said, I believe that the players made a strong statement in sticking together and playing their game instead of boycotting. By playing their game they stayed strong and showed that they would not let a man's discriminatory statements stop them from playing their game. Sterling may be the owner of the team, but these strong players make up the team and by playing the game, they stood up against this racial injustice.

If Donald Sterling can be

Submitted by PARKS2014-18 on

If Donald Sterling can be confirmed as the one talking on that tape then he needs to be kicked out of the NBA. He should never be able to own an NBA ever again as well. I feel bad for the players on the LA Clippers. They are starting out in the most important part of the season, playoffs. They don't need all of these distractions that will come with this investigation. Doc Rivers is a great coach and I am glad they had a team meeting about and I totally agree with them continuing to play. The best way for them to show them standing up for themselves is to play and show Sterling that they will play. But I do think if this situation gets out of control then many of the players won't want to play because they don't want to play for Sterling, a man that is racist. But for now they need to keep their head up and focus on what they have dream about which is a NBA Championship.

This article right here shows

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-10 on

This article right here shows that there is still racist Americans in our society. I wouldn’t doubt that the comments that Sterling said to his girlfriend about not bringing black people to his games are legitimate. Sterling has been in trouble for his racist ways in the past when he refused to rent housing to Hispanics, why wouldn’t he say something like this? I honestly think he is just trying to save his butt in the NBA because he doesn’t want to get in trouble for his actions. Sterling is clearly showing back-stage racism here by making these comments. This also shows his ignorance because he made this remarks to his African American/Mexican girlfriend. No doubt she was offended and she did the right thing by making Sterling’s comments public. What is more disturbing to this story is the fact that all the NBA organization has said is that they find the comments “disturbing and offensive”. With the NBA’s roots being heavily in African American culture you would think that they would take better action against these comments. Ultimately Sterling needs to be let out of the business. I don’t know much about ownership of a NBA team and how it all should be handle, but he shouldn’t be a part of it any longer. This whole situation is not okay and clearly shows that racism is still a huge problem in our society and needs to be addressed immediately.


Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-22 on

I totally agree with you and by his girlfriend making his racial views public, she is doing the right thing. Now its not hidden, it can be acknowledge, and eventually he will pay for the things he said. This is the big reason why there are hate crimes and why racism still exist. I am happy that his girlfriend took a stand and that is how it should be!

I think people still need to

Submitted by PARKS2014-17 on

I think people still need to be aware about the important of eliminating racism and bring equality among all for real I fail to understand why that L.A clipper owner decided to say that there should not be a black people to the game that's not fair at all...people still need to be educated about eliminating racism for real.

I think people still need to

Submitted by PARKS2014-17 on

I think people still need to be aware about the important of eliminating racism and bring equality among all for real I fail to understand why that L.A clipper owner decided to say that there should not be a black people to the game that's not fair at all...people still need to be educated about eliminating racism for real.

I agree with you. It is very

Submitted by PARKF2014-16 on

I agree with you. It is very sad that someone who was looked up to by African Americans would say such horrible things about them. Also, he was controlling his significant other which is never okay! I doubt he has very many friends left after what he said. Such low respect for this man.


Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-22 on

This right here is out right racist. This goes to show that racism still exist and society is letting it happen. I can't believe he has the audacity to say the things he said. First and for most, didn't his parents ever teach him some manner? "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all!! Man I don't think that he should have any rights in owning the clippers. This also shows that Donald is using his power over this situation. Basically he has the mentality of I can do what ever I want and you can't do anything about it!. He is ignorant and should be kicked out of the NBA. He was wrong for what he did and I feel bad for the Clippers. I wouldn't want to play for someone who is like that at all!

You are right as the owner of

Submitted by PARKS2014-17 on

You are right as the owner of the team showing racism as open like that it is not good it shows that Donald is typically racist, which for the respected and appreciated person like him should not tend to do such as thing for real. Furthermore I don't think if people will tolerate such kind of incidence. I am sure he is old enough as the adult person like him who has already see the effects of racism and all of the evils of it, could try to educated the people about making an end of it, but wonderful enough he is the one who is keep on encourage racism and hold it, this is weird to me.

reply: wow

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-31 on

I don't know about you, but I can see it in his face that he could care less about any of this. Im glad he was banned from the NBA, someone who hates black and latino people has no place there. Hopefully he decides to eventually sell his team. I feel bad for the clippers players as well.

If he really hates blacks and

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-17 on

If he really hates blacks and Latinos why does he was a black and Latino girlfriend? Friends close and your enemies closer?

I thought about this as well.

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-02 on

I thought about this as well... It doesn't make any sense to me. He has a past with discrimination, makes racial remarks but yet has a african american/latino girlfriend? Weird...


Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-31 on

I always wondered the same thing. How can you hate a race so much but be with someone who is both those races. I also wonder why the girlfriend stayed knowing he didnt like her kind.


Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-31 on

This whole situation was a mess! He was clearly a grumpy old man just in it for the money. His net worth is 1.9 billion dollars, which makes his 2.5 million dollar fee look like change. I think he could care less since this type of behavior has occurred in the past and he hasnt changed. The situation just doesnt make sense, how can a racist man own a majority black team if he didn't like them? especially since he paid them millions of dollars a year.

I think the first thing that

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-17 on

I think the first thing that has to be done is prove if he was guilty of talking on that tape. While it is clear that he has had some discrimination issues in the past, I do sort of find it hard to believe that he doesn't want any African Americans at the games. When the rosters of all the teams are 65% black how can you be involved in a sport where you think black people just wont be around? Or maybe this whole thing was taking out of context. Maybe his girlfriend asked to bring someone whom Sterling has an issue with and he was upset and said "don't bring that black man to the game" While not the right way to handle it, it wouldn't be getting the press it is getting now. If he hated black people why would he own a basketball team? why would he have an ethnic girlfriend? And if she did steal 1.8 million and he found out, then this could have been blackmail to try and keep the money so now she is deciding to attempt to destroy this guys life. I think we need to wait until we have all the facts before she start expecting the commissioner to throw him out of basketball. Innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around.

Still a racist remark...

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-26 on

I understand where you are coming from as the organization is predominantly Black and that he has an ethnic girlfriend, however I think some of this could relate back to pre-Civil Rights era with White patriarchy. Essentially the idea goes back to White slave owners and black slavery. In hind sight this is drastically different situation, however that is how it could be perceived. As we are missing the facts, it was none the less a racial comment, whether it was taken out of context or perceived differently, it was still racist. As his history has shown he has had racial charges against him, it only leads us to believe that he did make the statement.


Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-04 on

You asked why he would own a professional basketball team if he hates black people? Maybe because it makes him hundreds of millions of dollars each year? Just because he is racist and hates black people does not mean he will not willingly exploit them in order to make money. The fact of the matter is, just because he is the owner of the team does not give him the right to place his own Jim Crow laws on who can or cannot come to the game. He is bad for the NBA and America in general, and him being handed a lifetime ban from the NBA is absolutely the right decision and I am glad it was done.

Still a racist remark...

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-26 on

There is no doubt that indeed, if what was said, is a racist remark. Because we do not have all of the facts it is difficult to address the situation. As owner of a team and a sport that is predominately Black it is hard to see that he would say statements like this so openly and freely. I have some suspicion that the way the roles have been played out has a lot to do with White patriarchy. He is a White man that essentially 'owns' a predominate Black team. Relating back to pre-Civil Rights era. As written in the article it has shown that Sterling has had previous racial charges against him. So as we do not have all of the facts, it is more than likely these statements are true. Whether or not it has been taken out of context or perceived differently than what he had anticipated, it is none the less a racial remark. I think a full on suspension should occur during the duration of the investigation and realistically a decision should have to come down to the players and the coaches. It is their legacy and essentially their choice of who they play for.


Submitted by PARKS2014-25 on

Incredibly racist. And why would you even have to question it if he already had racial charges against him? People these days!!!!


Submitted by PARKS2014-25 on

Incredibly racist. And why would you even have to question it if he already had racial charges against him? People these days!!!!

I agree. The remarks are

Submitted by PARKS2014-29 on

I agree. The remarks are definitely racist and I'm pretty sure Sterling has admitted to saying those things. Whether or not they were taken out of context he has said racist remarks and should be suspended. I doubt that the team would want him part of it because many of the players on the team are black and many of the basketball players on other teams are black so I believe that they will not want him part of the team or part of the sport.

Great Decision

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-04 on

Fantastic decision by new commissioner Adam Silver to give Donald Sterling a lifetime ban from the NBA. This is exactly the course of action that was needed, and I am glad to see that it has happened. I find it highly unlikely that former commissioner David Stern would have done the same thing, which makes it fortunate timing that he stepped down when he did. Remarks such as these are absolutely despicable, especially when Sterling's own team (and the entire league for that matter) is dominated by African Americans, and they make him millions upon millions of dollars each year. They can make him millions but he still cannot associate himself with them? Goodbye and good riddance, Donald Sterling.

New Headline

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-21 on

I have seen a lot about this story on the news and all I can say is that it most certainly shows how there are still ignorant racist people in our society. I don;t think however that we will ever be able to get rid of everyone that has the same mentality that Sterling has. It is unfortunate that this man has said what he has said; however, one can play devils advocate and ask "don't we have a freedom of speech". I don't condone what Sterling said but I also do not know if it legally right that he were kicked out of the committee and refused the award he was about to receive, simply because he utilized his 1st amendment right. Any thoughts on this?

A Disgrace to the Public And Sports in General

Submitted by PARKF2014-06 on

Personally, I think racism is present wherever you go. Some people still have this attitude and stupid way about themselves but in Sterling's case, he was just one of many to get caught. It is going to be difficult to remove this by individuals but enough is enough and this needs to be stopped. I am sure there are others who own other teams and have the same mindset but behind close doors and quiet and keeping their opinions and words to themselves because it would look humiliating in the public's eyes. Frankly, I just think something should be done because it affects the community and furthermore the world.Something should be done and was done and I hope this can change other people's views on racism and help stop this issue between the different races of the country and furthermore the world.

Changing Times

Submitted by PARKF2014-16 on

I hate how Sterling handled himself, but I love that people are getting mad about it. The reason I say that is because people are finally understanding how horrible racism truly is! The fact that people care enough to want him removed from the NBA is awesome because it shows that we, as Americans, are growing tired of discrimination. Racism is an issue all over the United States but I believe that we are headed in the right direction. Kudos to the players for playing through the hatred they feel for Sterling. The money was always way more important to him than the players who were making him all that money. Good luck on your next real estate, Sterling! Problem is, now nobody is going to want to buy anything from you.

racism is ignorance, and if

Submitted by PARKF2014-09 on

racism is ignorance, and if you are successful but still ignorance that means your success means nothing.