• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Donald Sterling, LA Clippers owner, under fire over racist rant

L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling is under fire after audio of racist comments he allegedly made was leaked.
April 26, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has come under fire after audio of a racist rant that he allegedly made was leaked to TMZ.

The audio has spurred a firestorm of reaction from President Barack Obama, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and Clippers president Andy Roeser, who says the tape was leaked as an act of revenge.

Sterling allegedly made the racially charged remarks during an argument with his girlfriend, identified as V. Stiviano.

President Obama spoke out about Sterling's alleged rant.

"When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything, you just let them talk, and that's what happened here," Mr. Obama said. He is currently visiting Malaysia.

At an afternoon news conference, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Sterling will not attend the Clippers' playoff game Sunday. He said the NBA is investigating and hopes to have things wrapped up in the next few days. Silver said he is not ready to talk about any potential sanctions.

In a statement, Roeser said the woman heard on the tape, who he believes leaked it to TMZ, is being sued by the Sterling family on accusations of embezzling over $1.8 million.

The woman told Sterling she would, "get even," Roeser said in the statement. Roeser also said he has heard the tape and is unsure if the audio is legitimate or 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. He feels terrible that such sentiments are being attributed to him and apologizes to anyone who might have been hurt by them," Roeser said.

Roeser also addressed comments heard on the tape about Earvin "Magic" Johnson, saying Sterling is upset.

"He is also upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him about Earvin Johnson. He has long considered Magic a friend and has only the utmost respect and admiration for him -- both in terms of who he is and what he has achieved," Roeser said.

The Clippers are investigating, according to Roeser.

Sterling's wife, Rochelle, filed a lawsuit March 7 against Stiviano to recover everything Sterling gave her, including a duplex worth $1.8 million, a Ferrari, two Bentleys and one Range Rover, aside for money for her up keeping. Donald and Rochelle Sterling have been married for over 50 years, according to the suit.

Rochelle Sterling said her husband met Stiviano at the Super Bowl in 2010, and their affair was ongoing when the lawsuit was filed. Her lawsuit accuses Stiviano of targeting and seducing older wealthy men to get their money.

"There's a God out there, and justice should prevail," a woman who identified herself as Stiviano said to Eyewitness News.

In the tape, Sterling tells his girlfriend that he doesn't want her to bring black people to his games or post pictures with black people on Instagram.

"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?" the man believed to be Sterling says during an argument on April 9. He continues, "You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that ... and not to bring them to my games."

He sounds particularly upset over a photo of her with basketball legend Magic Johnson.

"Don't put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me," he is heard saying.

Stiviano, who TMZ says is of black and Mexican descent, has since taken the photo down.

NBA League spokesman Mike Bass released the following statement Saturday: "We are in the process of conducting a full investigation into the audio recording obtained by TMZ. The remarks heard on the recording are disturbing and offensive, but at this time we have no further information."

The billionaire real estate mogul purchased the team in 1981, and has been the longest tenured-owner in the NBA since Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss died last year.

His son, Scott Ashley Sterling, died of an apparent accidental overdose at his home in Malibu last year.

Following the family's loss, Johnson took to Twitter to extend his sympathies.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to LA Clippers owners Donald and Shelly Sterling and their family for the loss of their son Scott," Johnson tweeted.

On Saturday, the basketball legend voiced his disgust for Sterling's recent comments. He also vowed in a series of tweets that he and his wife would not attend another Clippers game while Sterling owned the team.

"I feel sorry for my friends Coach Doc Rivers and Chris Paul that they have to work for a man that feels that way about African Americans," he tweeted. "LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling's comments about African Americans are a black eye for the NBA."

This is not the first time Sterling has been accused of racism. In November 2009, Sterling agreed to pay $2.73 million to settle allegations by the government that he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics and blacks and to families with children. The Justice Department sued Sterling in August 2006 for allegations of housing discrimination in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles.

In March 2011, Sterling won a lawsuit against former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor when a jury rejected the Hall of Famer's claim of age discrimination and harassment.

During his weekly radio show Saturday, Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson and a coalition of civil rights leaders demanded that Sterling publicly apologize for the "blatantly racist remarks".

"Sterling's racist digs at African-Americans is no surprise. This is just the latest in a long pattern of well-documented racially bigoted acts by Sterling," says Hutchinson. "This time he's gone to far. Black players have made his fortune with the Clippers and for him to disparage African-Americans is beyond reprehensible. It demands a public apology, a Clipper fan protest and NBA official censure."

National Basketball Players Association President Chris Paul said "this a very serious issue which we will address aggressively. 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."

Meanwhile, the LA Clippers' Facebook page has been inundated with comments blasting Sterling.

The #DonaldSterling, #BoycottClippers, and #ClippersOwner hashtags were trending on Twitter Saturday after the scandal broke with many fans expressing their outrage over his comments.

The Los Angeles Clippers team has yet to comment on the latest scandal.

ABC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Load Comments