Donald Sterling tape: President Obama wades into row over ‘racist’ remarks by basketball mogul

President says LA Clippers owner’s comments about black men are ‘ignorant’

Los Angeles

The longstanding owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball franchise has found himself the subject of an outcry in the US, after he was allegedly recorded making racist remarks on a tape released to the gossip website TMZ.

The sports and property mogul Donald Sterling, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday, has owned the city’s second National Basketball Association (NBA) team for more than 30 years.

On the offending tape, a man thought to be Mr Sterling argues with his girlfriend, the twentysomething model Vanessa Stiviano, about her posting a picture of herself on Instagram, in which she poses with the basketball icon Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people,” the billionaire reportedly says. “In your … Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with black people… Don’t put him on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”

After the remarks became public, Mr Johnson, an NBA hall of fame inductee who played for the Clippers’ rivals, the LA Lakers, for 13 years and later became a part-owner of that team, tweeted: “I will never go to a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner.”

The incident quickly crossed into the political sphere, with the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, declaring that Mr Sterling’s remarks were “offensive and despicable and have no place in Los Angeles”. At a press conference in Malaysia, President Barack Obama, who is a basketball fan, described the mogul’s comments as “incredibly offensive”. “When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk,” he said.

Mr Sterling, a former lawyer, bought the Clippers in 1981 and is the longest-standing owner in the NBA. He is also one of the league’s most controversial figures, and has faced several discrimination lawsuits. In 2009, for example, he paid a settlement of $2.73m (£1.62m) over allegations that he refused to rent apartments to minority tenants at a property in Los Angeles. Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, said Donald Sterling’s remarks were ‘truly offensive’ Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, said Donald Sterling’s remarks were ‘truly offensive’

Ms Stiviano, who is of Mexican and African-American descent, is herself the target of a $1.8m lawsuit filed last month by Mr Sterling’s wife, Rochelle, who alleges that he had a four-year affair with the model, during which he lavished cash and costly gifts on her. In a statement, the Clippers organisation claimed Ms Stiviano had warned Mr Sterling “that she would ‘get even’”.

“Mr Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings,” the Clippers statement said. “It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life.”

The Clippers team has been enjoying one of the most successful seasons in its history. The coach, Doc Rivers, who is black, told reporters that he and the whole team were angered by the tape. “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. “It is easy to protest. The protest will be in our play.”

The NBA has launched an investigation into the tape to determine its authenticity. The league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, said at a press conference  on Sunday that Mr Sterling’s alleged remarks were “truly offensive and disturbing”. The tycoon may face a large fine or a suspension if the investigation determines that he made the remarks, though it is unlikely he will be forced to sell the Clippers, as some critics have demanded.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'