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Cringe-Worthy Audio Has LA Clippers' Owner In Hot Water, Again


From the NPR West studios in Culver City, California it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Eric Westervelt. Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald Sterling is in hot water. Audio has surfaced of Sterling allegedly criticizing a female acquaintance for associating with black people. It's unknown actually who made the recording and the voices have yet to be verified. Nevertheless, the NBA has launched an investigation. NPR's Sam Sanders reports the controversy is the latest racial scandal for Mr. Sterling.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: The celebrity gossip site TMZ posted the audio Friday night. About nine minutes long, much of it is cringe-worthy. In it a man who sounds an awful lot like L.A. Clippers' owner Donald Sterling is talking to V. Stiviano, a woman believed to be his girlfriend.


V. STIVIANO: People call you and tell you that I have black people on my Instagram and it bothers you.

DONALD STERLING: Yeah, that bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?

SANDERS: Elsewhere on the recording Sterling tells Stiviano not to bring black people to Clippers' games. Stiviano herself claims to be half black. The comments set Twitter ablaze. By Saturday night NBA Commissioner Adam Silver spoke publically on the firestorm.

COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: The audio recording posted by TMZ is truly offensive and disturbing, and we intend to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible.

SANDERS: Silver said that Sterling will attend the Clippers' Sunday playoff game against the Golden State Warriors. He also said he can't discuss any sanctions until they can verify the recording's authenticity. Donald Sterling's team released a statement neither confirming nor denying the audio but apologizing if it offended anyone. Sterling was set to receive a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP's Los Angeles Chapter. On Sunday the organization dropped those plans.

The Instagram photo that started all of this is believed to be one of Stiviano with NBA legend Magic Johnson. Johnson is speaking out. Here he is on the Los Angeles TV station KCBS.

MAGIC JOHNSON: If you're going to be like this, why you owning a team in the NBA, which, what, is over 70 percent African-American basketball players. If you feel like that in a league that's predominantly African-Americans, you shouldn't be owning a team.

PETER KEATING: I am not surprised by this. And I think the only people who are surprised by this are people who are utterly new to the basketball scene that involves the Clippers or who have been willfully ignorant for years.

SANDERS: That's Peter Keating, a writer at ESPN. A few years ago he wrote a long story detailing years of Donald Sterling's scandals. Besides owning the Clippers, Sterling owns a lot of real estate in the L.A. area. In 2009, he paid over $2 million in a settlement after he was accused of refusing to rent to blacks, Latinos and families with children. He's also been accused of sexual harassment and discrimination within the L.A. Clippers' franchise. Peter Keating says, for a long time Sterling has been too powerful to be challenged.

: You have this guy who's utterly self-made and kind of a great American success story except that he has his eccentricities. And as he gets richer and richer and more and more powerful he starts to be accountable to nobody.

SANDERS: Now he may have to answer to somebody. Even President Obama condemned the remarks allegedly made by Sterling. Clippers' coach Doc Rivers, who is black, says the team will keep playing. But in a warm-up Sunday players turned their gear inside out in protest, hiding the Clippers' logo. Sam Sanders, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.

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