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.
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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.
"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 said. "Not splinter. Not walk. It's easy to protest. The protest will be in our play."
Golden State coach Mark Jackson, a former Clippers player, said he was "disappointed."
"I believe there's no place in society for statements like that, feelings like that," Jackson said. " We have a great commissioner and I'm sure that the powers that be will do their homework and make the proper decisions."
He said he never heard anything from Sterling like what was on the tape when he played for the Clippers.
"I played there and in fairness I never experienced anything," he said.
The NBA issued a statement regarding the tape via spokesman Mike Bass.
"We are in the process of conducting a full investigation into the audio recording obtained by TMZ. The remarks heard on the recording are disturbing and offensive, but at this time we have no further information," Bass said.
After the tape was released, Magic Johnson took to Twitter to voice his displeasure.
.@cjbycookie and I will never go to a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 26, 2014
Others including Clipper fans like director Adam McKay and rapper Snoop Dog spoke out against Sterling's alleged comments. McKay said he would give up his season tickets.
Anthony Morrow, a player for the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team, sided with Johnson.
He's had multiple complaints against him over the last 20 years, but it took this To happen for them to "influence" him to sell the team— Anthony Morrow (@MrAnthonyMorrow) April 26, 2014
Former Clippers player Baron Davis commented on the scandal but did not appear to take sides.
That's the way it is...He is honest about what he believes in..Been going on for a long time, Hats off 2 the Team.. 4 playin above it all.— Baron Davis (@Baron_Davis) April 26, 2014
Although no current Clippers player commented directly on social media. Clippers player DeAndre Jordan posted a pointed all black Instagram photo early this morning, that many took as a sign that Jordan was unhappy with Sterling's statements. Jordan did not confirm what his intention was with the image.
Sterling has owned the Clippers since 1981 making him the longest-running owner of an NBA team.
According to ESPN sterling has been involved in several lawsuits including lawsuits that involved racial discrimination. Sterling agreed to pay $2.73 million in 2009 to settle allegations that he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics, African-Americans and families with children. Calls to the Clippers officer were not immediately returned.