In audio footage that emerged over the weekend, Donald Sterling, the owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, was allegedly caught on tape telling his girlfriend that she couldn’t post Instagram photos in which she’s seen with black people, or bring black people to basketball games with her, or publicize the fact that she fraternizes with them. This came after she posted two photos on her Instagram: one with mixed-race baseball player Matt Kemp and one with basketball Hall Of Famer Magic Johnson. TMZ’s 8-minute tape emerged Friday and was augmented by an extended cut obtained by Deadspin over the weekend. In the recordings, Sterling’s girlfriend—V. Stiviano—asks how Sterling feels about employing several black men. Sterling responds: “I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them?”
Stiviano, is currently being sued by the Sterling family.
The tape has created no small turmoil in the sports world. Sterling was about to be honored by the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP, even though he has been in court over illegal fair housing practices for low-income, minority communities. He has also been called out for racist slurs before. But the explicit language on the tape—which details a disdain bordering on revulsion for black men—has sparked an outcry from other basketball players and his own team. At their playoff game on Sunday, the Clippers wore their warmup jerseys inside-out—to hide the Clippers logo—and then shed them in a pile at halfcourt just before the game started.
Sterling did not attend the game in the wake of the controversy. The Clippers lost to the Golden State Warriors, 97-118, and none of the players commented publicly on the controversy before or after the game, preferring instead to let their coach, Doc Rivers, handle the press.
Johnson, who was mentioned by Sterling on the tape, called on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to “come down hard” on the Clippers owner, adding that “he shouldn’t own a team anymore.” Miami Heat star LeBron James and former player/TNT commentator Charles Barkley made similar remarks. Michael Jordan also weighed in on the tape—remarkable in itself, because Jordan typically keeps a low profile amid controversy. Jordan, who is the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, said: “As an owner, I’m obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views […] As a former player, I’m completely outraged.”
Outside of the basketball world, several hip-hop musicians expressed their outrage—including an especially profane video from Snoop Dogg, posted on Instagram. (It opens with: “A message to the motherfucker that owns the Clippers—you bitch-ass, redneck, white-bread, chickenshit motherfucker.”) President Obama even took time out of his visit to Malaysia to comment on the tape, calling it “incredibly offensive.” And perhaps most importantly, Victor Willis, of the Village People, informally “banned” the Clippers from playing “Y.M.C.A.” at any home games.
On Saturday, Silver said that the NBA and the Clippers were investigating the tape, to determine if the voice was, in fact, Donald Sterling’s. Clippers president Andy Roeser, in a desperate statement to the press, said that while he does not know if the man on the tape is indeed Donald Sterling, none of the remarks represent Sterling’s “views, beliefs, or feelings.” He goes on to add that Stiviano is using the tape to “get even” with Sterling, because Donald Sterling and his wife are suing Stiviano for $1.8 million, charging embezzlement. Stiviano is labeled as a “gold digger” in the suit.
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