KUALA LUMPUR - President Obama said the alleged "incredibly offensive" racist remarks by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling "kind of speak for themselves" and that he's confident the NBA will address the issue appropriately.
"I don't think I have to interpret those statements for you," Obama said during a news conference with Prime Minister Najib Razak. "They kind of speak for themselves … When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't have to do anything, you just let them talk."
An audio recording obtained and released by TMZ reveals a person identified as Sterling criticizing his girlfriend for "associating with black people," a reference to a photo she posted on Instagram posing with former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson.
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In a statement, Clippers president Andy Roeser did not confirm the authenticity of the recording but said on behalf of Sterling that the sentiments it contained are "not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings."
"I have confidence that NBA commissioner [Adam Silver] will address this," Obama said. "Obviously, the NBA is a league that is beloved by fans all across the country. It's got a lot of African-American players, steeped in African-America culture, and I suspect the NBA is concerned and going to be resolving this."
Obama said the incident illustrates that more work remains to be done in the broader, long-running struggle for civil rights in the United States.
"The United States continues to wrestle with legacy of race and slavery and segregation. That's still there," he said. "We've made enormous strides, but you're going to continue to see this percolate up … We have to continue denouncing it and teach our children differently."
Obama said Americans have to "constantly be on guard" against racism, and noted that the Malaysian people wrestle with many of the same issues of equality and discrimination as well.