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The NBA is planning a Tuesday news conference to discuss the investigation into embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who is alleged to have made racist comments in a taped conversation.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said additional details will be announced, though it’s unclear when that may happen.
The news conference is a clear sign NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — in the first real crisis of his short tenure — is both following through on his plan to move quickly on this matter and adhering to a request from the players’ union for some sort of resolution in short order.
The Clippers host Golden State on Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
“He should not continue owning the clippers,” Lakers star Kobe Bryant wrote yesterday on Twitter.
Fallout from the Sterling scandal continued yesterday, with CarMax — the nation’s largest retailer of used vehicles — ending its sponsorship of the team. The company said in a statement it finds the statements attributed to Sterling “completely unacceptable.”
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“While we have been a proud Clippers sponsor for nine years and support the team, fans and community, these statements necessitate that CarMax end its sponsorship,” it added.
Portions of the recordings were released over the weekend by TMZ and Deadspin. Silver’s first step in the process was to authenticate that Sterling’s voice is on the tape, and while the NBA has not confirmed that it is, Sterling’s wife attributed the comments to her husband.
“Our family is devastated by the racist comments made by my estranged husband,” Rochelle Sterling said in a statement sent KABC-TV in Los Angeles. “My children and I do not share these despicable views or prejudices. 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. We are doing everything in our power to stand by and support our Clippers team.”
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the former NBA All-Star who is serving as an adviser to the National Basketball Players Association while the Sterling matter plays out, called it “a massive distraction” to the league.
What Silver will do remains unclear. He works for the owners — and so far that group seems to have no sympathy for Sterling’s latest controversy.
Among those who have spoken out publicly to condemn the alleged Sterling remarks: Washington’s Ted Leonsis, Miami’s Micky Arison and perhaps most notably, Charlotte’s Michael Jordan, who won six NBA titles as a player.
“I’m obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views,” Jordan said in a statement released Sunday. “I’m confident that Adam Silver will make a full investigation and take appropriate action quickly.”
Silver started as commissioner Feb. 1, replacing the retired David Stern. Silver met with Kevin Johnson on Sunday and heard five things that the players’ union wants from the commissioner, that list includes:
—Sterling doesn’t attend any NBA games for the rest of the playoffs because of the “enormous distraction.”
—A full account of past allegations of discrimination by Sterling and why the league never sanctioned him.
—An explanation of the range of penalties the league could bring against Sterling.
—Assurance the NBA and the union will be partners in the investigation.
—A decisive ruling.
“He’s got to come down hard,” Hall of Fame player Magic Johnson, who was referenced on the audio recording, said Sunday on ABC.
The NBA constitution is not public, though it’s understood the commissioner’s powers are broad when it comes to dealing with matters deemed “prejudicial or detrimental to the best interests of basketball.” A fine, a suspension, a demand for sensitivity training, all those and more are surely at Silver’s disposal.
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.
Also on Sunday, the NAACP announced on Twitter that Sterling will not be receiving a lifetime achievement award from the LA Branch of the NAACP.” Sterling had been slated to receive the honor May 15 as part of the 100th anniversary celebration of the group’s Los Angeles chapter.
Some players feel for the magnitude of the task Silver is facing.
“What, he’s been three months on the job? And he has to deal with an issue like this,” Washington’s Garrett Temple said. “It’s unfair to him. … It’s going to be a difficult situation for him to take care of, and he’s probably going to act swiftly as he said. And he needs to do so. It’s a very tough issue. A lot of different sides. But it’s more than basketball.”
Sterling has been the subject of many past controversies, but this, particularly at playoff time and with his own team a potential title contender, has perhaps generated more outcry than the others combined. Even President Barack Obama addressed the issue Sunday at a news conference in Malaysia.
The next move will be made by Silver, and Tuesday apparently is the day.
“This is a defining moment for the league,” Kevin Johnson said. “It’s a defining moment for the commissioner.”
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