NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Saturday night that the league will move quickly in its investigation of recorded comments by a man identified as Clippers owner Donald Sterling telling a woman not to bring black people to games.
The league finds the audio tape "disturbing and offensive," Silver said in Memphis before the Grizzlies' Western Conference first-round playoff game against the Thunder. Sterling agreed not to attend the Clippers' road game against the Warriors today, the commissioner said.
"We do hope to have this wrapped up in the next few days," he said.
In the recording released by celebrity news website TMZ late Friday, a person identified by TMZ as Sterling can be heard telling a female friend — identified as his girlfriend, V. Stiviano — he was mad she posted a picture on her Instagram account of herself and Hall of Fame player Magic Johnson.
"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people," the man says. Later in the recording, referring to her Instagram postings, he says, "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," the man said. "Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?"
Clippers president Andy Roeser said in a statement the team did not know if the tape was legitimate. He also said Stiviano is being sued by the Sterling family over accusations she embezzled more than $1.8 million and she told Sterling she would "get even."
Sterling's wife, Rochelle, filed a lawsuit against Stiviano in March alleging Stiviano had an affair with Donald and he gave her lavish gifts, a Los Angeles TV station reported. The suit asked for the return of all cash, land, expensive cars and other items that under California law are community property of the Sterlings.
The audio recording doesn't reflect Sterling's beliefs, Roeser said. Sterling is "upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him" about Johnson, the former Lakers great whom Roeser called Sterling's friend.
Johnson said on Twitter he'll never go to a Clippers game again as long as they're owned by Sterling, a real estate mogul in his early 80s who bought the club in 1981 and is the NBA's longest-tenured owner. Johnson also said he felt bad that friends such as Clippers coach Doc Rivers and guard Chris Paul have to work for Sterling.
Rivers said players discussed boycotting today's Game 4 of their playoff series during a 45-minute team meeting but quickly decided against it.
"A lot of guys voiced their opinions. None of them were happy about it," Rivers said. "I think the biggest statement we can make as men — not as black men, as men — is to stick together and show how strong we are as a group. … The protest will be in our play."
Paul released a statement through the players union that said "this is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively." He also said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former All-Star guard who is the chairman of a search committee to find a new director for the union, would take a leading role to help players address the matter.
That Sterling may hold such views is not surprising. In November 2009 he agreed to pay $2.73 million to settle allegations by the federal government that he refused to rent apartments in Los Angeles to Hispanics, blacks and families with children. In March 2011, Sterling won a lawsuit against former Clippers GM Elgin Baylor, then 76, when a jury rejected the Hall of Famer's claim of age discrimination and harassment.