SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) — The NBA is investigating a report of an audio recording in which a man identified as Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling tells his girlfriend not to bring black people to games.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement Saturday that the league is in the process of authenticating the validity of the recording posted on TMZ’s website. Bass called the comments “disturbing and offensive” and said the league would have no further comment.
In the recording posted on TMZ, the man questions his girlfriend’s association with minorities. TMZ reported the woman, V. Stiviano, who is of black and Mexican descent, posted a picture of herself with Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson on Instagram — which has since been removed.
The man asked Stiviano not to broadcast her association with black people or bring black people to games.
The man specifically mentioned Magic Johnson on the recording, saying “don’t bring him to my games, OK?”
“I will never go to a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner,” Johnson responded on Twitter. He also said the alleged comments are “a black eye for the NBA” and said he felt bad that friends such as Clippers coach Doc Rivers and Clippers point guard Chris Paul had to work for Sterling.
At a practice before the Clippers play Golden State on Sunday, Rivers said: “As far as the comments, we’re not happy with them.”
Paul released a statement through the players union that said: “On behalf of the National Basketball Players Association, this is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively.”
Clippers team president Andy Roeser addressed the ongoing investigation with the following 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. 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.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at a press conference on Saturday he would wait until after the investigation to decide whether to take action against Sterling.
But on TNT’s halftime studio show Saturday, host Charles Barkley compelled Singer to take swift action.
“This is the first test of Adam Silver. He’s got to suspend him right now. First of all, they’ve got to prove that’s his voice on that tape. But this is the first big test for Adam Silver,” he said.
“You can’t have this guy making statements like that. You have to suspend him and fine him immediately.”
NBA TV analyst and former player Chris Webber said that “the NBA owners need to handle their own.”
A spokeswoman for the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Jacky Johnson, said the organization planned a protest outside Tuesday night’s NBA playoff game in Los Angeles.
In Dallas, where the Spurs were getting ready to play the Mavericks, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said: “The comments are obviously disgusting.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “These statements are offensive and despicable and have no place in Los Angeles. I urge the NBA to act swiftly. L.A. fans deserve and demand better.”
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said “I have plenty of opinions, just not going to share them,” fending off several inquiries before saying: “Obviously if any business or entrepreneur says or does things that aren’t congruent with what the organization is trying to convey, that’s a problem. But it’s not my problem.”
Messages seeking comment from the Clippers were not returned.
Sterling, a real estate owner, bought the Clippers in 1981. He is the longest-tenured owner in the NBA since Lakers owner Jerry Buss died last year.
He has been frequently criticized for his frugal operation of the Clippers, although in recent years he has spent heavily to add stars such as Paul and Rivers, who led the team back to the playoffs in his first year as coach.
Former Clippers guard Baron Davis wrote on Twitter that Sterling’s discrimination has been “going on for a long time.”
Sterling has been involved in several lawsuits over the years, including ones with discrimination accusations.
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. Baylor, who was 76 at the time, had sought about $2 million after claiming he was forced out of the job he had held for 22 years. The team said Baylor left on his own and a jury awarded him nothing.
Sterling is a courtside fixture at Clippers home games. But he rarely visits the team’s locker room at Staples Center, although he made an appearance in December 2012 after they had won their 11th straight game, when he led an awkward locker room cheer.
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