NBA and Sponsors Respond to Clippers Owner's Offensive Comments

An audio recording of LA Clippers owner Don Sterling shocked the league with comments that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called "truly offensive and disturbing." The nine-minute recording, released by TMZ, included these statements made to Sterling's girlfriend, who happens to be black and Mexican:

  • "It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?" (3:30)
  • "You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want.  The little I ask you is not to promote it on that ... and not to bring them to my games." (5:15)
  • "I'm just saying, in your lousy ******* Instagrams, you don't have to have yourself with, walking with black people." (7:45)
  • "...Don't put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me.  And don't bring him to my games." (9:13)

Commissioner Silver made a short statement and then answered questions during a news conference:

Head Coach and Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Doc Rivers made this statement, posted on the NBA website:

"I would like to reiterate how disappointed I am in the comments attributed to [Donald Sterling] and I can't even begin to tell you how upset I am and our players are. Today, I had a meeting with the members of our organization. When you are around all these people, you realize they are just as upset and embarrassed by the situation and it does not reflect who they really are. That was what I got from all of them. They are now a part of this and they are upset at this. But, they are all going to hang in there and so are we - I can tell you that as a group and as a team. From our fans' standpoint, I want to say that they have been amazing, I can tell you that. We need unbelievable support right now from other people and I'm hoping we get that. My hope is that whatever the fans do, it is as one. I think that is what we all should do.

"We want to make the right decisions here. We're doing our very best to try and do that. We know that fans are in a dilemma as well. We want them to cheer for their players and their team. It will always be their players and their team. From the fans that I have heard from, that's how they feel. ‘This is my team. These are my players that I'm cheering for and that's not going to change.' I hope STAPLES Center is packed and people are cheering for the players. The players are now in the middle of this, and they have to deal with it.

"We are all trying to figure out everything as it goes and just do our best and we hope that it is the right answer. I'm still going to do my best and do what I think is best for the team and for everybody in this case. It is very difficult because there are so many emotions in this. This is a very emotional subject, this is personal.

"My belief is that the longer we keep winning, the more we talk about this. I believe that is good. If we want to make a statement - I believe that is how we have to do it. I think that is the right way to do it, but that doesn't mean we still don't wrestle with it every day and every moment. That is the difficult part.

"We are all doing our best here. Our players are doing their best. There are a lot of people involved in this. From one man's comments, a lot of people have been affected and the conversations that we're all having do need to be had."

As the NBA addresses inquiries, sponsors are pulling out. Mercedes-Benz, CarMax, Virgin America, State Farm, the Chumash Casino Resorts, Red Bull, Kia Motors America, Lumber Liquidators, and Yokohama Tire have all announced an end to or suspension of their advertising agreements.

UPDATE: Adam Silver announces that Sterling will be fined the maximum $2.5 million and banned from the NBA for life.

UPDATES: In another recording of Sterling, he explains his comments this way: "I know what I said was wrong, but I never thought the private conversation would go anywhere out to the public. I didn't want her to bring anyone to the games because I was jealous."

Time Warner Chairman and CEO Dick Parsons was selected as interim CEO until new ownership is decided. Parsons said, "Like most Americans, I have been deeply troubled by the pain the Clippers' team, fans and partners have endured. The Clippers are a resilient organization with a brilliant coach and equally talented and dedicated athletes and staff who have demonstrated great strength of character during a time of adversity."

Discussion Starters:

  • Although the NBA has been responding to questions, the league has made no comment about the declining sponsorships. What, if anything, should be said at this point?
  • What is suspiciously missing from these communications?