Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling issued an apology Saturday for a racist rant that is being attributed to him, TMZ Sports reports. The move follows a backlash over the comments from civil rights leaders, social media users, and current and former NBA players.
In a statement released by the Clippers to TMZ, Sterling says that he and his team do not know if the recording is legitimate. But they do know that the comments are not emblematic of his views of African Americans.
"Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings,” the statement reads. “It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life."
The statement also rebukes Sterling’s girlfriend, V. Stiviano, for allegedly releasing the recording, saying she is embroiled in a lawsuit with his family, the report says.
"We do know that the woman on the tape—who we believe released it to TMZ Sports—is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by the Sterling family, alleging that she embezzled more than $1.8 million, who told Mr. Sterling that she would 'get even,'" the report says.
The controversy erupted Friday after TMZ released a stunning recording of a man believed to be Sterling berating Stiviano, who is black and Mexican, for posting images of minorities on her Instagram account. That includes NBA legend Magic Johnson. He also asked her not to bring African Americans to his games.
"Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo…broadcast that you're associating with black people," the man says.
While the NBA has launched an investigation into the comments, outraged NBA players, fans and sports analysts have called for Sterling to be suspended and sanctioned.
Magic Johnson took to his Twitter account to condemn the remarks.
The Clippers met at the University of San Francisco Saturday afternoon for their final practice before Sunday's playoff game against the Golden State Warriors. Coach Doc Rivers called the meeting so players could air out their concerns, ESPN reports.
"I thought we needed to talk about it because everyone else is and so we needed to talk about it and all things came up," Rivers told ESPN. "We've heard all the stuff, the boycotts and all the stuff and all those things are things you could do but we choose to play and we're going to play tomorrow. … It was brought up because I'm sure 20,000 people have suggested it, but honestly I'm completely against that and they were, too.
"Why should we let someone's comments stop us from what we're trying to do? We're trying to do something here and we don't want that getting in the way of what we're trying to do."
Chris Paul, the Clippers’ most prominent player, is president of the NBA Players Association. He released a statement denouncing the comments attributed to Sterling.
“On behalf of the National Basketball Players Association, this is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively,” Paul states. “We have asked Mayor Kevin Johnson to expand his responsibilities with the NBPA, to determine our response and our next steps. As players, we owe it to our teams and our fans to keep our focus on our game, the playoffs, and a drive to the Finals.”
Former NBA star Charles Barkley and sports analyst, said: “You can’t have this guy making statements like that. You have to suspend him and fine him immediately.”
Miami Heat star LeBron James said: “There is no room for Donald Sterling in our league.”
Snoop Dogg posted an Instagram video condemning Sterling as a “redneck, white bread … racist…”
Civil rights leaders also condemned the comments. The NAACP, whose Los Angeles branch next month is scheduled to hand Sterling a lifetime achievement award, issued a statement, saying the remarks show how “racism is not a footnote of our past.”
Alice Huffman, President of the NAACP California State Conference, urged the Los Angeles Branch to withdraw Sterling from the honoree list for its upcoming gala.
“We also suggest that African Americans and Latinos should honor his request and not attend the games,” she states. “If true, these are very hurtful remarks and Mr. Sterling, whose team talents and fan base is majority minority, should offer an apology to Californians.”