NBA to probe alleged racist slurs by Sterling
THE National Basketball Association (NBA) has promised a swift investigation into remarks attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling after the release on Friday night of an audio recording on the gossip website TMZ.com.
On the recording, a person identified by TMZ as Sterling can be heard admonishing a female friend for being seen in public with black people.
Reaction around the league, whose players are predominantly African-American, was immediate and forceful.
The Miami Heat's LeBron James said: "There's no room for Donald Sterling in our league."
Magic Johnson, the former Lakers star, said on Twitter that he would not attend a Clippers game as long as Sterling remained the owner.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver struck a more cautious tone on Saturday, saying: "All members of the NBA family should be afforded due process and a fair opportunity to present their side of any controversy."
He added that he expected the investigation to settle largely around the authenticity of the recording and its context.
On the recording, the person alleged to be Sterling can be heard chiding a former girlfriend - identified by TMZ as V. Stiviano - saying he was angry that she had posted a picture on her Instagram account of herself and Johnson.
"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people," the person says.
Later in the recording, referring to her Instagram posting, the person says that "you don't have to have yourself with, walking with black people".
The person also says: "Don't put him on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don't bring him to my games. Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?"
Last month, Sterling's wife sued Stiviano, asking for the return of cash, property, cars and other items that Sterling had given to Stiviano.
Long-time Clippers president Andy Roeser said in a statement: "Mr Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect, his views, beliefs or feelings...
"He feels terrible that such sentiments are being attributed to him and apologises to anyone who might have been hurt by them."
In 2009, Sterling paid US$2.7 million (S$3.4 million) to settle a housing discrimination suit brought by the Justice Department, which accused him of systematically driving African-Americans, Latinos and families with children out of the apartment buildings he owned. In the settlement, Sterling did not admit wrongdoing.
The recording has raised questions about the nature of race relations in the NBA, known for being among the more progressive professional sports leagues.
It has had some of the country's first African-American coaches, executives and owners. Earlier this year, it became the first league to have an openly gay player when Jason Collins signed with the Nets.
Silver insisted: "While I understand the anger that could be naturally expressed over hearing a tape like this, I also believe that ultimately the players and the rest of the NBA family have confidence that we will deal with it appropriately."