The controversy surrounding Los Angeles Clippers owner Don Sterling’s alleged racist remarks made it halfway around the world after President Obama pointed to it as an example of how “the United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation,” during a press conference with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Sunday.
“When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk. That’s what happened here,” Obama said.
“That’s still there, the vestiges of discrimination. We’ve made enormous strides, but you’re going to continue to see this percolate up every so often.”
NBC News has not been able to authenticate a recording obtained by TMZ in which a man identified by the website as Sterling tells a woman the site identifies as his girlfriend, V. Stiviano – who is part African-American, according to the recording – that he has a problem with her “promoting” that she is “associating with black people” on her Instagram feed.
Listen to the audio below, via TMZ Sports:
Lawyers for Stiviano confirmed the authenticity of the recording, according to TMZ. In a statement, the lawyers denied that Stiviano leaked the tape to any news media and said that the 15 minutes of audio released is part of an hour-long conversation.
Accused by the woman on the recording of having problems with minorities, the man’s voice said on the tape, “There is no negativity. I love everybody. I’m just saying in your lousy f***** Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.”
“You can sleep with them. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want,” the man added. “The little I ask you is not to promote it on that, and not to bring them to my games.”
The man went on to say that former NBA star Magic Johnson, of whom the woman is a fan, “should be admired,” but that “it’s too bad you can’t admire him privately,” according to the tape. “And during your entire f****** life, your whole life admire him, bring him here, feed him, f*** him, but don’t put it on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me, and don’t bring him to my games. Okay?”
Johnson responded via Twitter, saying that “as long as Donald Sterling is the owner” he will never again attend a Clippers game. Sterling, who is in his eighties, has helmed the team for 29 years.
In an extended audio clip obtained by Deadspin, the woman reportedly identified as Stiviano asks the man reportedly identified as Sterling if he knows that he has “a whole team that’s black, that plays for you?”
‘You just, do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have—Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?” the man’s voice replies.
Sterling was slated to be honored by the Los Angeles NAACP with the presentation of a lifetime achievement award next month. The organization’s interim president Lorraine Miller said on Meet the Press Sunday that Sterling, who has not denied making the racist remarks, would no longer be receiving the award.
The argument allegedly started over a picture posted to Instagram of the woman with Magic Johnson, but reportedly shifted focus to a different photo posted with Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, which the woman identified as Stiviano says she thought wouldn’t cause problems because he is biracial.
“I thought Matt Kemp is mixed, and he was OK, just like me,” she says. “He’s lighter and whiter than me.”
“There’s no racism here,” the man identified as Sterling contends. “If you don’t want to be… walking… into a basketball game with a certain… person, is that racism?”
Clippers president Andy Roeser suggested Saturday that the argument, which TMZ says occurred on April 9, was leaked out of retribution.
“We do not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered,” Roeser said of the recording. “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.’”
In a lawsuit filed March 7 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Sterling’s former wife of more than 50 years blasts Stiviano as a gold digger, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Former Chicago Bulls star and current Charlotte Bobcats chairman Michael Jordan blasted Sterling in a statement Sunday.
“As an owner, I’m obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views,” Jordan said. “I’m confident that [commissioner] Adam Silver will make a full investigation and take appropriate action quickly.”
“As a former player, I’m completely outraged. There is no room in the NBA – or anywhere else – for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed. I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country and at the highest levels of our sport. In a league where the majority of players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level,” Jordan said.
Basketball legend LeBron James called the racist remarks “very appalling” and “unacceptable.”
“There is no room for Donald Sterling in our league,” he said.
Senators Bob Corker and Claire McCaskill blasted Sterling on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday.
“It’s just outrageous in 2014 that comments like these are being made,” Corker said. “I thought the president’s response was appropriate, and I don’t know what else to add to it.”
“In our country, we have a First Amendment which allows ignorant racists to say whatever they want to say,” McCaskill said. “However, I hope the NBA takes swift action against this man.”
“I can’t imagine how it must feel to be one of the African-Americans playing on his team, how they must feel today, knowing that the owner of the team is obviously such an ignorant racist.”
NBA Communications Executive Vice President Mike Bass said in a statement that the NBA is “in the process of conducting a full investigation,” while calling the comments “disturbing and offensive.”
Commissioner Adam Silver said he would wait to “discuss any potential sanctions” against Sterling until he had been “afforded due process” and presented his side of the story, but that the NBA hoped to complete its investigation within the next few days.
In the meantime, Sterling will not attend Sunday night’s game against the Gloden State Warriors, Silver said.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said during a pre-game press conference Sunday that his players have been “pulled in a million directions over the last 24 hours.”
While the “basketball preparation” for Sunday night’s game is done, Rivers said, “the mental preparation, on the other hand, I just ‑‑ honestly, I don’t know … I can’t imagine how much they’ve been pulled on and talked to and what you should do and what you shouldn’t do and what you should say.”
“I think if there’s anything, racism, injustice of any kind, it should always be front and center and we should never run from it,” Rivers said. “I think we all do a good job running from it. You should never run from it; you should confront it and try to do your best to handle it. I think we are doing our best right now in this case by trying to do that.”