Silver vows swift investigation of Sterling, race remarks

By Steve Aschburner,

VIDEO: Commissioner Silver’s statement regarding Donald Sterling

MEMPHIS – Calling racist remarks allegedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling “truly offensive and disturbing,” new NBA commissioner Adam Silver Saturday pledged an “extraordinarily” swift yet thorough investigation that could be completed by Tuesday.

Meeting with reporters before Game 4 of the Grizzlies-Thunder series at FedEx Forum, with the news conference carried live on NBA TV, Silver said Sterling had agreed not to attend his team’s playoff game Sunday as the league conducts its investigation. The commissioner indicated that the process – focused on a covert audio recording obtained by TMZ of a conversation between Sterling and a woman identified as his girlfriend – could be wrapped up by the time the Clippers and Warriors meet again for Game 5 at Staples Center in L.A.

Acknowledging the anger and disgust that swept through the NBA and the sports world Saturday, Silver spoke of broad powers in place under the NBA’s constitution and by-laws that include a range of sanctions. “All those will be considered depending on the findings of our investigation,” Silver said.

An NBA spokesperson would not comment on specifics of the sanctions. Possible penalties presumably include fines and suspensions, but the NBA’s constitution and its bylaws are not public documents, and it is unknown whether the commissioner or the other owners are empowered, for instance, to force Sterling to sell his franchise.

Sterling, a real estate mogul who has owned the Clippers since 1981 and is the league’s longest-tenured owner, was identified as the man on the audio recording telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to games. The woman on the tape, according to TMZ, was identified as V. Stiviano, who allegedly posted a picture of herself with Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson on Instagram – a photo that has since been removed.

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people,” the man on the recording says, according to a Los Angeles Times story. He adds later: “I’m just saying, in your … Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people. Don’t put him on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”

While the tape itself might have been illegally procured and the NBA wants to heed due process, Silver said that Sterling’s cooperation in not attending Sunday’s game at Oracle Arena in Oakland and the urgency driving the investigation made it unnecessary to suspend the Clippers owner in the meantime (assuming Silver or the other owners have that power).

The limited number of moving parts in the investigation is what might allow for a quick resolution. Said Silver: “The core of the investigation is understanding whether the tape is authentic, interviewing Mr. Sterling, potentially interviewing the woman as well, and understanding the context in which hit was recorded.”

Clippers president Andy Roeser issued a statement about the recording.

“We have heard the tape on TMZ. We do not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered,” Roeser said. “We do know that the woman on the tape – who we believe released it to TMZ – is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by the Sterling family alleging that she embezzled more than $1.8 million, who told Mr. Sterling that she would ‘get even.’

“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.”

The statement said the Clippers are investigating the matter too, and apologized on Sterling’s behalf specifically to Johnson, who reacted angrily to the recording in a series of posts on Twitter. Johnson said he and wife Cookie would no longer attend Clippers games and called Sterling “a black eye” for the NBA.

Rochelle Sterling, the owner’s wife, filed a lawsuit last month against Stiviano, CBS reported. It alleged that she had an affair with her husband and sought money and possessions apparently given to Stiviano that by California law would be the Sterlings’ community property.

Sterling, 80, has a history of controversial behavior and incidents related to race. In 2003, he was sued for discrimination by tenants of his rental properties and by the nonprofit Housing Rights Center. Three years later, the real estate mogul was sued in U.S. District Court for refusing to rent based on rent and national origin in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles. He agreed in 2009 to pay $2.73 million to settle that lawsuit.

Ironically, that same year, Sterling was presented with a lifetime achievement award from the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP.

In November 2010, Elgin Baylor, another former Lakers legend and Hall of Famer who served as the Clippers’ general manager from 1986 to 2008, named Sterling in an age and racial discrimination suit. Baylor’s claims – including allegations that the owner would bring guests into the locker room and make inappropriate comments about the players’ bodies – eventually were rejected by a jury.

Sterling was not sanctioned by the NBA for those past transgressions, and Silver said they are not part of this investigation.

The recent comments attributed to Sterling, combined with his reputation, sparked a rapid and in many cases harsh reaction among some of the league’s players and coaches, though few had actually heard the comments.

LeBron James called the comments on the tape “appalling” and “there’s no room for Donald Sterling in the NBA.” The Miami Heat superstar added that he wasn’t sure he would participate for the remainder of the playoffs if he played for the Clippers.

“Obviously, if the reports are true it’s unacceptable in our league,” James told reporters before his team’s game in Charlotte. “It doesn’t matter, white, black or Hispanic – all across the races it’s unacceptable. [The commissioner has] to be very aggressive with it. I don’t know what it will be, but we can’t have that in our league.”

Doc Rivers, the Clippers coach, was angry about having this controversy erupt in the midst of the playoffs, while point guard Chris Paul has concerns both individually and as the president of the NBA Players Association.

Silver spoke to Rivers and Paul Saturday, and said at the news confernce: “I personally think the situation is most unfair to the Clippers’ players and coaches, who have to deal with this distraction in the middle of their own highly competitive playoff series.”

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, a former all-NBA player who has been assisting the players union in its search for a new executive direction, just got busier. He has been asked by Paul and the union to represent their interests in this matter as well.

“He expressed the players’ grave concerns over this matter,” Silver said, “and we have agreed to remain in close contact.”

Indiana Pacers forward David West, whose team played in Atlanta in the afternoon, issued a series of Tweets in a back-and-forth with followers on the social media site. A pair of West’s Tweets read:


San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich‘s reaction was as terse as a third-quarter sideline interview. “Obviously, those comments were disgusting,” Popovich said before the Spurs-Mavericks game in Dallas.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who has paid millions in fines for criticism of referees and other league policies, largely stayed out of this fray. “There’s no reason to restate or rehash the obvious. Some things are better where the comments just stand on their own and people come to their own conclusions on that.”

Silver, wrapping up his third month since taking over Feb. 1 for David Stern (who spent three decades in the position), was making his first visit to Memphis as commissioner. He had planned to talk about the excitement and competitiveness of the postseason so far, along with a different sort of bad news – he learned Saturday that former Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley passed away after a long illness.

A week ago, Silver presided over an upbeat Board of Governors meeting in which a new lucrative floor for the league’s franchise values was established – the small-market Milwaukee Bucks are being purchased for a reported $550 million – and much of the attention focused on tweaks to the game and continued revenue growth. With an enhanced revenue-sharing plan in place and a collective bargaining agreement with the players union in place at least until July 2017, times have been good.

This represents his first real crisis of his administration. How he and the NBA handle it could set a tone for player and public relations for his tenure.

As for race relations generally within the NBA, Silver said he remains proud of the league and its many constituents.

“I’m extraordinarily proud of the relations we have in this league with each other, among various ethnic groups, various nationalities,” the commissioner said. “We have an extraordinary number of international players who play in this league, and I think our track record is stellar.

“While I understand anger that would be naturally expressed over hearing a tape like this, I also believe that ultimately the players and the rest of the NBA family has confidence that we’ll deal with it appropriately.”


  1. Jay_Reloaded says:

    I am Haitian. While the comments of Mr. Sterling are outrageous and disgusting, I have to say he has the right to think whatevet the **** he wants. We cannot change his state of mind. And his comment were made privately. So if a guy doen’t have the guts to say some messed up things out loud, just leave him alone with his stupid comments. Legally, the NBA can’t do anything about it. best thing is for players to boycott the Clippers, let them have an all-white-american team. They would soon collapse and Sterling would have to resign or sell.

  2. hymie porkenstein says:

    who cares!! bunch of over paid idiots anwyay

  3. Esther says:

    The NBA has to take action. This is abhorant. This is a racist comment. Are other owners like him?

  4. NBAfan says:

    How can the Clipper state they do not know if the man’s voice is authentically Donald Sterling yet at the same time positively identify the woman’s voice as the mistress?

  5. tODD says:

    stay of of it. it is none of your buyseness.

  6. Voice of reason says:

    While I dont agree with and dont like ANY racial comments, be it from Sterling, Or Al Sharpton,

    However both parties have the right to believe and say what they want, The Constitution gives them the right.

  7. cp10 says:

    @Miami305, what you say makes sense! It’s too bad in America we sensationalize anything that can sell newspapers and advertising, that’s why the Europeans are smarter than us man!! Our views are too simplistic, no sophistication, too consumeristic – but that’s what sells right? The rich get richer and smarter while the poor get poorer and dumber.

  8. Nay says:

    I did some research to find out what may be the cause of Sterling’s views, and why he justifies his interactions with blacks despite these views. More here:

  9. JimD54 says:

    Now we will see if the league is going to cut out the cancer by making the man sell his team, or are they going to condone his man’s statements by trying to sweep under the rug the feelings he has for races other than his own, this is truly a defining moment for the NBA…..

  10. marty says:

    No need for an investigation.The voice is either his or it isn’t that’s the bottom line.Let’s not pretend there is no discriminitive history with this guy.This has to be dealt with IMMEDIATELY !! No dog and pony shows!!

    • Common Sense says:

      the investigation is into whether it’s his voice or not. That is the investigation. If it is him, there will be a solution, if not, then an apology

  11. Sam Bell says:

    It’s far past time for America to address the issue of racism and let these racist bigots know America will no longer tolerate it!

  12. Jack says:

    People who hold these racial felling toward blacks and others will never learn, people like Donald Sterling and other racists have not learn anything about human kind, that is, we are all one earthly family of different colors, languages,”and ideals. If what was report by TMZ about Sterling conversation with his girlfriend turn out to be fact, he himself should make a public statement of apologized and admitted that he needs help with his world views of people of different ethnic groups and nationalities.” and sell his team and give or use that money to help rehabilitated himself with the people he so verbally despise if possible.

  13. Bill says:

    It’s so weird. Sterling does realize who’s on his team, right?

  14. cp10 says:

    Maybe this guy has gone mental or has dementia, I don’t know – his wealth has largely been generated by players, sports athletes who are African american. He should love black players more than white players, lol. And who can have any dislike whatsoever for Magic? What a bizarre soap opera.

  15. Miami305 says:

    He is the owner of the team. That’s a personal issue between him and his girlfriend. Why she have to record it and try to get advantage of the situation . Obviously this was prepared to put him down. We all humans and sometime we said stuffs that we don’t really mean when we are angry especially if there is a woman involved on it. This girl should definitely go out of this man life because she obviously don’t feel anything for this man. She even prepared all this to put him down over the world. I love black people. Hopefully this girl accomplish what she want now that all this trash tapes are out there. Good luck Donald Sterling and if you ever read this send that girl to hell! People like her are NOT worth it.

  16. Christian Kokai says:

    Hey guys, This situation with the owner of the Clippers. The way you are dealing with it is wrong. Firstly he is being set up by this gold digger female who is already in a court case. Go figure how she baited him.
    He is an old man and tried very hard to explain to her but she just kept pushing if indeed it is really him – yet to be proved. I listened to the tape and I got to say that he said a lot of positive stuff about minorities and Magic as well which shows that he was a little confused and she made full use of this. How come she was taping it? Ask yourself? This his private world and she invaded it. This whole case is out of control because race is so big a political football. What is it with you Americans? Of course there are and is racists ie racism. We all have our little dislikes and so what. It is our right to free thought and to free speech especially in our private environment. Get a grip and tell the black community to grow a pair and not jump to conclusions just like the Travion Martin case where the holier than thou Miami Heat and that fool Lebron also made way to early judgements. See a pattern here people????
    Get a grip!

    • kenhill says:

      Christian Kokai I’m a 35 yr old white man….Trayvon Martin was not justified that young man was wrongly killed by a man who has had troubles with the law…which we see all the time which is despicable…. Also Donald sterling said nothing positive… He is a jealous man…who has racial issues deep rooted n him..did u not read he was sued three times for three different instances for the same thing racialdiscrimination…if it looks like a duck… Quacks like a ducks and walk like a duck…its a duck….he is a racist… Pointe black

  17. sellahh says:

    Silver is such a phony, can’t issue a 90 second statement without looking at his paper all the time.
    Also, David West is the best.

  18. ali says:

    so what if he said it, he doesn’t like such and such people in his team’s games, its his opinion, freedom of speech, we should be more concern with MLB not letting Barry Bonds finsish off his career and PGA not letting Tiger woods win more Masters than Jack Nicholas in Golf, now those are real racism. PEACE

  19. protest says:

    Players of both teams (GSW and LAC) should just agree to airball every shot in first quater as a protest and than just continue the game.

  20. Faba says:

    what west tweets is kind of ironic. If you dont have “naive folks buying into this post- racial society mythology”, you will never have a post-racial society

  21. GLavUK says:

    I listened to all the recorded tape and I made my mind up that Donald Sterling was bothered by the phone calls he received after the instagram pic posted by his girlfriend. This tells me that Donald Sterling has racist friends and that these racist friends don’t want to see black people invited at the games. I don’t think he is racist himself. I would rather like to know who called Sterling after the instagram pic, those should be named and shamed. Peace.

  22. Rootje says:

    A man of 80 years old, is from a period of time that has no future in NBA.. His thoughts on things like race, but also basketball are of no interest to anybody in the league. Sell the Clips, and go get another girlfrind on the Bahamas…..