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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Recruitment Genius: Programme Manager

£30000 - £35500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Provisioning Specialist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Provisioning Specialist is required to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Apprenticeships

£10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an outstanding opportunity for 1...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Support Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Support Engineer is required to join a well-...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum