Condemnation grew against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling on Sunday as NBA players, former players and organizations lashed out — and called on new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to act.
Charlotte Bobcats owner and Hall of Famer Michael Jordan issued a statement that said, "There is no room in the NBA - or anywhere else - for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed."
Another Hall of Famer, Magic Johnson, whose name came up in the audio tape of a phone call reportedly between Sterling and a female friend, appeared on ABC's NBA playoffs pre-game show Sunday and said, if Sterling made the statements, "He shouldn't own a team anymore."
The Clippers players also made their sentiments known. They came out for pregame and immediately discarded their team warmups into a pile on the court, wearing plain red shirts and pants during shootaround. They went on to turn in a lackluster performance, losing 118-97 to the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the Western Conference playoffs Sunday.
The best-of-seven series, now 2-2 as it shifts back to Los Angeles on Tuesday, is far from over.
Neither is the Sterling saga. The owner was not at Sunday's game and there is no word on whether he will be in attendance for Game 5.
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Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob, in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, said that if the tape is authentic, then "there'll be judgment."
"Clearly inappropriate. It's very sad that we have to all go through this," Lacob said in the interview. "Hopefully we can get through this and resolve the issues and put it behind us. But clearly very inappropriate behavior. It's just something that I think no matter who you are, racism doesn't belong period, in any way, doesn't matter, black, white, whatever color. Inappropriate. I wish we didn't have to do this today. I wish our game didn't have to be the centerpiece of all this today. I feel bad for our fans and players and everybody who will have to deal with this."
The NAACP announced on its Twitter feed that Sterling will not receive a lifetime achievement award from the organization at a May 15 event celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the Los Angeles chapter.
Former Lakers player and radio host Mychal Thompson said he expects black fans to boycott Game 5 at the Staples Center on Tuesday.
"I think there will be thousands of empty seats," Thompson said. "He (Sterling) has said he doesn't want black people at his games, so I expect them to stay away."
The National Basketball Retired Players Association released a statement Sunday that, while acknowledging the facts of the case are still being investigated, said the statements are "deeply troubling."
"While every American is entitled to due process, offensive comments pertaining to race have no place in our society and certainly not in professional basketball," the statement said. "Our long-term partners, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association, have been amongst the most progressive institutions globally as it relates to fostering diversity and inclusion, and our membership similarly believes that bigotry and hatred must always be combated."
The Anti-Defamation League today called the remarks "reprehensible," and welcomed the NBA's promise to launch a swift investigation.
"Commissioner Adam Silver must not only make it clear that there is no place for such racism, intolerance, and hate in the NBA, but also that anyone connected with the League who engages in such abhorrent rhetoric will face serious consequences," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "We applaud those within and outside the NBA who have already spoken out on this issue. It is reassuring and affirming to know that such flagrant racism is so widely regarded as out of bounds."
The incident has quickly escalated into the first major test for Silver, who said Saturday night the league will conduct a "full investigation" on the audio, which was obtained by TMZ and features a man identified as Sterling telling his girlfriend, identified as V. Stiviano, not to bring black people to games. The recorded argument was based on an Instagram photo of Stiviano posing with Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson.
Silver, who took over in February after David Stern retired, said the league would move quickly and wrap up the investigation "in the next few days."
"The core of the investigation is understanding whether the tape is authentic and interviewing Donald Sterling," Silver said.
USA TODAY Sports' Scott Gleeson analyzes Adam Silver's first real test as NBA commissioner, where he must decide whether or not to punish Clippers owner Donald Sterling. USA TODAY Sports
In a statement on Saturday, Clippers president Andy Roeser, said of the recording that the club does "not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered. … Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life."
Sterling's wife of more than 50 years, Rochelle, attended Sunday's game and spoke to ESPN reporter Lisa Salters.
When asked whether it is her husband's voice on the recording, Rochelle Sterling said, "I don't know, I haven't listened to the entire thing, but I do believe there were some parts that were cut out. I will let the experts handle that. The one thing that I want everyone to know is that I am not a racist and I do not condone what you heard on that tape."
In a statement released Sunday, Stiviano's attorney, Mac E. Nehoray, said the tape is authentic. "This office understands that the currently released audio tape of approximately 15 minutes is a portion of approximately one (1) hour of overall audio recording of Mr. Donald T. Sterling and Ms. Stiviano, and is in fact legitimate," Nehoray wrote.
USA TODAY Sports' Sam Amick reported that Kevin Johnson planned to meet with Silver before Sunday's playoff game between Sterling's Clippers and the Golden State Warriors and will talk to reporters at halftime. Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento and former NBA player, is working with the players union to help them find a new director.
Johnson released a statement Saturday.
"The reported comments made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling are reprehensible and unacceptable," Johnson said in a statement. "The National Basketball Players Association must and will play a very active role in determining how this issue is addressed.
"There needs to be an immediate investigation and if the reports are true, there needs to be strong and swift action taken. I have spoken with NBPA President Chris Paul and will be leading the NBPA in addressing the implications of this serious matter. I will be formally reaching out to the NBA today to determine our next steps. While I originally came on to lead the Executive Director search, this issue requires immediate attention from the players association. I will be keeping Chris Paul, the Executive Committee, and all player representatives informed of every step."
Jordan, who had declined to comment at his team's game Saturday vs. the Miami Heat, also released a strong statement Sunday.
"I look at this from two perspectives – as a current owner and a former player. As an owner, I'm obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views. I'm confident that Adam Silver will make a full investigation and take appropriate action quickly.
"As a former player, I'm completely outraged. There is no room in the NBA - or anywhere else - for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed. I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country and at the highest levels of our sport. In a league where the majority of players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level."
Johnson, who's name was mentioned in the alleged Sterling audio tape, told ABC Sunday, "For him to make these comments, these alleged comments about myself and other minorities, there's no place in our society for it, no place in our league for it. We all play with different races of people, that's what makes sports so beautiful. And then he's put his whole team in a tough situation. Once commissioner Silver does all his due diligence, gathers his information, he's got to come down hard. He shouldn't own a team anymore."
"In Los Angeles, the most diverse major city in the country, we take as point of pride that our leaders - in business, in government and in the community - embrace and accept this diversity without bias or bigotry," said Amanda F. Susskind, Anti-Defamation League Pacific Southwest Regional Director. "Both are suggested in the shocking language attributed to Mr. Sterling. We hope he disavows both the language and the sentiment behind it."