The National Basketball Association was scrambling on Monday to find a solution to a crisis that has embroiled the owner of one of the teams involved in the season-ending playoffs.
When the Los Angeles Clippers face their bitter enemy the Golden State Warriors at home on Tuesday, the question will not be which team wins but whether Donald Sterling, the Clippers owner, is in his usual seat at the Staples Center.
The new NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, is under pressure to find a quick resolution to the scandal surrounding Sterling after excerpts from a recorded conversation filled with racially charged comments appeared over the weekend on websites TMZ and Deadspin.
The recordings appear to originate with a mistress, whom TMZ identified as V. Stiviano, who is part black and part Mexican. The recording is apparently of an argument that started after Stiviano posted a picture of herself with basketball legend Magic Johnson on Instagram.
In the recording, the voice identified as Sterling’s, tells Stiviano to take the picture down because he didn’t want her seen in public with black men. He tells her she can sleep with black men but tells her not to post their photos on social media or bring them to Clippers games.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Sterling’s representatives had responded by saying they did not know if the recordings were genuine and by asserting that Sterling is not racist.
Sterling’s reported remarks are a particular embarrassment for a league in which so many of the players are black, as are many Clippers players and the team’s coach, Doc Rivers.
Sterling, who has long been an unpopular figure round the league, did not attend his team’s game in Oakland on Sunday night. His wife, Rochelle, who is reportedly suing Stiviano for embezzlement, was there. She was not standing by her man.
“We will not let one man's small mindedness poison the spirit of the fans and accomplishments of the team in the city we love,' Mrs Sterling told US media.
The Clippers players made their protest before the game, discarding their team tracksuits on the floor at centre court rather than putting them in a basket, and going through their pre-game routine with their shirts inside-out to hide the Clippers logo.
They then allowed 62 by half time and lost 118-97. The seven-game series is tied 2-2 as it heads back to L.A.
“Maybe our focus wasn't in the right place would be the easiest way to say it,” Clippers player J.J. Redick, who is white, told the media after the game.
Sterling has been the subject of many past controversies, but this, particularly at playoff time and with his team a potential title contender, has generated much more of an outcry.
President Barack Obama, a basketball fan, told a press conference in Malaysia that Sterling’s reported comments were "ignorant" and "incredibly offensive."
Michael Jordan, a co-owner of the Charlotte Hornets, released a statement saying: “I'm obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views.'' He called on Silver to take action.
LeBron James, the Miami Heat star, said “there is no room for Donald Sterling in our league.”
“This situation is a massive distraction for the league right now,'' said Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star who is the mayor of Sacramento, California, and is acting as an adviser to the Players Association. “It must be addressed immediately.”
Johnson met Silver on Sunday and gave him a list of actions the union wants. They include a ban on Sterling attending games; a full account of past allegations of discrimination by Sterling and why the league never sanctioned him; and a decisive ruling.
Silver has “got to come down hard,” Magic Johnson said Sunday on American TV.
Silver only took over as commissioner on February 1. His first task is to verify Sterling's voice is on the recording.
Meanwhile, more audio may be coming. An employee in the office of attorney Mac E. Nehoray, who represents the woman allegedly on the tape, said the full recording lasts about an hour. The clips released by TMZ and Deadspin are significantly shorter than that.
The attorney's office also insists that the recording is legitimate and that Sterling is the man on the tape.
One organisation caught in the crossfire is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading civil rights group which had planned to give Sterling an award. It said on Twitter on Sunday that “#DonaldSterling will not be receiving a lifetime achievement award from the LA Branch of the NAACP.''
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
Date created : 2014-04-28