Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling will get "due process" as the NBA investigates whether a tape released today that purportedly records him making racist remarks is authentic, the league commissioner said tonight.
The league will act "extraordinarily quickly," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, but in the meantime Sterling said he will not attend his team's playoff game Sunday against the Golden State Warriors.
"All members of the NBA family should be afforded due process and a fair opportunity to present their side of any controversy," Silver said. "The core of the investigation is understanding whether the tape is authentic, interviewing Mr. Sterling and interviewing the woman as well and understanding the context in which it was recorded."
LeBron James of the Miami Heat, perhaps the league's biggest star, called on Silver to act quickly and decisively.
"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."
Earlier, the Clippers released a statement denying the accuracy of the tape and saying that the racist remarks on it are "the antithesis of who he is."
Even before Silver spoke in a news conference in Memphis, Tenn., where the league is celebrating the success of the Grizzlies franchise, which is battling the Oklahoma City Thunder in another first round playoff series, the NBA had announced that it was investigating the tape, posted on the celebrity website TMZ. The NBA Players Association said it was trying "to determine our response and our next steps."
The tape, which records an argument between a man and woman, according to TMZ Sterling and his girlfriend V. Stiviano, brought a swift and angry response by former NBA players and Clippers fans.
On the tape, the man questions why the woman is bringing African-American people to the games and why she would "broadcast" that she is with "black people."
TMZ reported that Stiviano posted a picture of herself with former NBA great Earvin "Magic" Johnson on Instagram. In the tape the woman says she "admires" Magic Johnson.
"Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings," Clippers president Andy Roeser said in a statement released today. "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."
Roeser said team officials had heard the tape but "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,'" Roeser said.
"[Sterling] is also upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him about Earvin Johnson," the statement 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."
At the media availability for the Clippers, who are facing the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, most Los Angeles players declined to comment on the situation.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said the team held a 45-minute meeting and that though there had been talk about boycotting the game in response to the remarks, the team would play its game Sunday.