The face of the NBA says there is no place in the league for Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
Taking a powerful stand against alleged racially insensitive comments by Sterling, Heat forward LeBron James called for immediate action by the NBA “before this really gets out of hand.” On Friday night, TMZ.com published an audiotape reported to be of Sterling telling a person, among other things, “it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
“If the reports are true, it’s unacceptable,” James said. “It’s unacceptable in our league. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, Hispanic, whatever, all across the races.”
James didn’t mince words, repeatedly saying “there is no room for Donald Sterling in our league.”
He also said he was confident that newly appointed NBA commissioner Adam Silver would take the appropriate steps in its investigation of the controversy and “take a stand.”
“I believe in Adam [Silver], I believe in the NBA, and they have to do something and do something very fast and quickly before this really gets out of hand,” James said. “Like I said, there is no room for Donald Sterling in our league, man. There it is.”
Close friends with Clippers point guard Chris Paul, James said: “I can only imagine what’s going through his head.” As for James himself, he said if he played for the Clippers he would consider boycotting games.
“I kind of waivered back and forth whether I would actually sit out,” James said. “If our owner would come out and say the things that he said, I would really have to sit down with my teammates, talk to my family, because at the end of the day, our family and our teammates are way more important than that.
“Basketball is huge, obviously, the playoffs have been unbelievable, and I hate the fact that something like this has to come out when the playoffs have been unbelievable, and the game of basketball continues to grow.”
The audiotape also mentioned Lakers great Magic Johnson: “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, OK?”
Johnson responded to the comments on Twitter.
“I feel sorry for my friends coach Doc Rivers and Chris Paul that they have to work for a man that feels that way about African Americans,” Johnson tweeted.
He also added that the comments were “a black eye for the NBA,” and that he wouldn’t attend another Clippers game as long as Sterling is the team’s owner.
Clippers president Andy Roeser released a statement addressing TMZ’s report:
“We have heard the tape on TMZ. We do not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered. 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. He is also upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him about Earvin Johnson. He has long considered Magic a friend, and has only the utmost respect and admiration for him — both in terms of who he is and what he has achieved. We are investigating this matter.”
In a statement, Heat owner Micky Arison called the comments “appalling, offensive and very sad.”