Donald Sterling’s Long History of Racism and Offensive Remarks

The seven most offensive things said and done by the billionaire over the years.

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Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling on the sidelines before a game with the Memphis Grizzlies on May 5, 2011, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The racist diatribe attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is clearly not the first time he has been hit with such charges. The billionaire apparently has a long and storied history of making racially insensitive remarks, geared not only toward athletes, but prospective tenants looking to rent apartments in properties he owns.

1. “Why are you taking pictures with minorities?”

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Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers and V. Stiviano on May 19, 2013

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In an explosive story, TMZ Sports obtained an audio recording of a man purported to be Sterling berating his 20-something-year-old girlfriend, V. Stiviano, who is half black, for hanging out with blacks and other minorities.

“Why are you taking pictures with minorities?” the man says in the recording. “Why? It’s like talking to an enemy. Hispanics feel certain things towards blacks. Blacks feel certain things toward other groups [...] It will always be that way. [...] It bothers me a lot that you’re associating with black people. [...] You’re supposed to be a delicate white or a delicate Latina girl. [...] You don't have to have yourself walking with black people.”

2. “I wanna know why you think you can coach these [n-word]s.”

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Rollie Massimino, then head coach of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Running Rebels, on Dec. 4, 1993, at Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, Calif.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Jeff Pearlman, the New York Times best-selling author of six books and former Sports Illustrated senior writer, wrote last July at his eponymous blog that Sterling reportedly made the slur to Rollie Massimino, a standout college coach who was being considered for the head coaching job with the Clippers.

Pearlman says former Clippers general manager Paul Phipps recounted the story several months ago during an interview for a book about the NBA in the 1980s. Although the anecdote didn’t make the final pages of the book, he said it stood out in his mind. It happened while the team was searching for a head coach to replace fired Paul Silas, Pearlman writes.

“We needed someone different,” Phipps told Pearlman, “and one of the first guys we talked to was Rollie Massimino.” Massimino, who was coaching Villanova University, was known as a guy on the rise and Sterling agreed to meet with him inside a gate at Los Angeles International Airport, Pearlman writes.

After the meeting, Massimino reportedly called Phipps about 3 a.m. He told Phipps, “I’d never work for that son of a bitch. Ever,” Pearlman writes.

Massimino then said, according to Pearlman, “and he has this blonde bimbo with him, they have a bottle of champagne, they’re tanked. And Don looks at me and he says, ‘I wanna know why you think you can coach these [n-words].’”

3. Sterling wanted a team of “poor black boys from the South ... playing for a white coach.”

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Retired NBA player Elgin Baylor May 19, 2013, in Century City, Calif.

Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Sports Spectacular

Elgin Baylor, the Clippers general manager from 1986 to 2008, revealed the statement in an age and racial discrimination suit against Sterling, ESPN reports. He charged, among other things in the suit filed in 2009, that Sterling repeatedly stated that he wanted a team of “poor black boys from the South ... playing for a white coach” like a “Southern plantation-type structure.” Baylor later dropped race from his lawsuit. A jury ruled in favor of Sterling in March 2011, the Los Angeles Times reports.

4. “Look at those beautiful black bodies.”

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Sam Cassell, No. 19, of the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 6, 2008

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Baylor’s suit revealed that players Sam Cassell, Elton Brand and Corey Maggette complained that Sterling reportedly brought women into the Clippers’ locker room after games, while the players were showering and make comments like, “look at those beautiful black bodies,” ESPN NBA reports.

5. “African American and Hispanics” are not “desirable tenants.”

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Sign indicating Koreatown neighborhood in Los Angeles

Wikimedia Commons

Sterling paid $2.725 million in 2009 to settle a lawsuit charging that he discriminated against African Americans and Hispanics in housing rentals. In court filings, Justice Department lawyers presented evidence that the Sterling and his wife, Rochelle, made statements “indicating that African Americans and Hispanics were not desirable tenants and that they preferred Korean tenants” occupy buildings they owned in Koreatown, the Los Angeles Times reports.

6. “That’s because of all the blacks in this building; they smell, they’re not clean.”

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Antonio Villaraigosa, then mayor of Los Angeles, poses with Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling on Nov. 27, 2005, in Hollywood, Calif.

David Livingston/Getty Images

Sterling was complaining about the odor in one of his apartment buildings, according to testimony given during a discrimination lawsuit brought against him in 2003 by 19 tenants and the nonprofit Housing Rights Center, according to ESPN NBA. The case ended in a confidential settlement in 2005; attorneys for the Center declined to comment to ESPN, but the magazine obtained depositions.

7. There is that time he celebrated Black History Month in March.

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In 2011 Sterling instructed his marketing department to honor Black History Month at a Clippers game, well, in March, according to the East Valley Tribune.

For the latest on the Clippers players’ protest, read here.

For “The Take” on what the NBA should do next, read here.

Lynette Holloway is a contributing editor at The Root.The Chicago-based writer is a former New York Times reporter and associate editor for Ebony magazine.

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