After allegations that L.A. Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, made racist remarks about Blacks in an audio obtained by TMZ, everyone from Twitter to NBA players to sports announcers and fans wondered exactly how the players would respond, especially as they were in the middle of a playoff series with the Golden State Warriors.
Head coach Doc Rivers said that after a team meeting everyone was upset, but that they would play the game regardless, though the sentiment on social media was that the players should boycott the game.
Instead, the team, including Chris Paul, who is also the NBA Players Association president, staged a silent protest removing their shooting shirts, and warming up with their practice jerseys inside out. The players also wore black armbands and black socks in a protest reminiscent of the famous Black Power salute made by track stars John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
Sterling, after talking with the NBA, did not attend the game. His wife, Rochelle Sterling did, but denounced the comments made by her husband.
“I don’t condone those statements and I don’t believe in them,” Rochelle Sterling told ESPN. “I’m not a racist. Never have been, never will be. The team is the most important thing to my family.”
Despite the silent protest, the Clippers lost to the Warriors 118-97, evening the series at 2-2.
President Obama weighed in on the controversy, as did Miami Heat player LeBron James, who said an owner like Sterling doesn’t belong in the league.
Citing everyone in the league’s right to due process, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver held a press conference but says he is not prepared to discuss any sanctions against Sterling until further investigation.
The NBA is investigating the audio, obtained by TMZ, in which a man purported to be Sterling makes racist remarks while speaking to his girlfriend. An extended version of the audio can be heard here.
In the original recording, Sterling and his girlfriend V. Stiviano, who is being sued by Sterling’s wife, discuss her Instagram photo with former NBA great Magic Johnson, now deleted. Sterling tells her he doesn’t want Stiviano, who is herself half-Mexican and half-Black, that he doesn’t want her taking pictures with Black people on Instagram and that he doesn’t want her bringing Black people to any Clippers games.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement Saturday that the league is in the process of authenticating the validity of the recording posted on TMZ’s website. Bass called the comments “disturbing and offensive.” Stiviano’s lawyer has released a statement to the media validating the accuracy of the tapes, but Stiviano denies leaking the tape to TMZ.
In the recording posted on TMZ, the man questions his girlfriend’s association with minorities. The AP couldn’t immediately independently verify it was Sterling’s voice on the recording.