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Donald Sterling scandal: Alleged rant costs sponsorships

LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling's alleged rant is costing the team support as it lost sponsorships Monday.
April 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling's alleged rant is costing the team support as it lost sponsorships Monday. And with the Clippers in the NBA playoffs, fans are reacting.

A recorded conversation released to TMZ and Deadspin.com over the weekend revealed jaw-dropping racially charged comments allegedly made by the Clippers owner. In an audio recording obtained by TMZ, a man believed to be Sterling urged his girlfriend not to bring black people to Clippers games or to post photos of herself with black friends on her Instagram account. One of those now-deleted photos is believed to have been of the woman, V. Stiviano, posing with Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.

Stiviano, who has an attorney for an unrelated lawsuit, says the full recording lasts about an hour. The attorney's office also insists that the recording is legitimate and that Sterling is the man on the tape.

The scandal quickly engulfed the National Basketball Association and led several companies to reconsider their partnerships with the team. Numerous corporate sponsors parted ways and or suspended their sponsorships with the Los Angeles Clippers Monday, including CarMax, State Farm, Kia Motors, Aqua Hydrate, Virgin America, Southern California Ford Dealers and Red Bull. More companies are expected to follow suit.

The NAACP announced that it is rescinding a lifetime achievement award from Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling amid the controversy over racist comments that he allegedly made.

The civil rights organization will no longer be honoring Sterling with the "Humanitarian of the Year" award. The organization will also be returning his donation of an undisclosed amount, saying that his alleged comments are reminiscent of an ugly time period in American history.

"There is a personal, economic and social price that Mr. Sterling must pay for his attempt to turn back the clock on race relations," said L.A. NAACP President Leon Jenkins. "If these statements are not who Mr. Sterling is then he should spend a sufficient amount of time that's necessary in the African American community to prove that he is not the person those words portray him to be or suggest he may be."

CarMax released the following statement after severing its 9-year partnership deal: "CarMax finds the statements attributed to the Clippers' owner completely unacceptable," CarMax said in a statement. "These views directly conflict with CarMax's culture of respect for all individuals. While we have been a proud Clippers sponsor for 9 years and support the team, fans and community, these statements necessitate that CarMax end its sponsorship."

Red Bull said it's suspending its team-related marketing activities, but will continue to support Red Bull athlete Blake Griffin.

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.

Elgin Baylor, the former NBA great who served as the Clippers' GM for 22 years, left the franchise with rancor and an unsuccessful lawsuit in 2009 alleging race and age discrimination.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he is investigating the legitimacy of the audio recording before deciding what course of action to take.

There's no debate that the scandal is overshadowing the Clippers quest to win the franchise's first NBA championship. Many fans say they believe the controversy played a big part in Sunday's loss to the Golden State Warriors and admit they fear it could continue to take a toll during the playoffs.

"This situation is a massive distraction for the league right now," said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the former NBA All-Star who is serving as an adviser to the National Basketball Players Association while the Sterling matter plays out. "It must be addressed immediately."

Silver started as commissioner Feb. 1, replacing the retired David Stern. Silver met with Kevin Johnson on Sunday and heard five things that the players' union wants from the commissioner, including:

-Sterling doesn't attend any NBA games for the rest of the playoffs because of the "enormous distraction."

-A full account of past allegations of discrimination by Sterling and why the league never sanctioned him.

-An explanation of the range of penalties the league could bring against Sterling.

-Assurance the NBA and the union will be partners in the investigation.

-A decisive ruling.

Silver has scheduled a press conference to announce its findings in the investigation regarding Sterling for 11 a.m. PT Tuesday.

The Clippers will host the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the Western Conference first-round series on Tuesday night.

The Associated Press and CNS contributed to this report.


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