CHARLOTTE, N.C. — LeBron James called comments on an audio recording of a man identified as Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling “appalling” and said he’s not sure if he would suit up for the remainder of the NBA playoffs if he played for the Clippers.
“There’s no room for Donald Sterling in the NBA — there is no room for him,” the Heat forward said tonight before a playoff game against the Charlotte Bobcats.
The league said today it was investigating the recording posted on TMZ’s website, calling the comments “disturbing and offensive.”
Commissioner Adam Silver spoke Saturday night in Memphis, Tenn., before the Grizzlies’ game against Oklahoma City, repeating that the league finds the audio tape “disturbing and offensive” and that Sterling agreed to not attend the Clippers’ game Sunday at Golden State.
“All members of the NBA family should be afforded due process and a fair opportunity to present their side of any controversy, which is why I’m not yet prepared to discuss any potential sanctions against Donald Sterling,” Silver said. “We will, however, move extraordinarily quickly in our investigation.”
Silver said the NBA needs to confirm authenticity of the audio tape and interview both Sterling and the woman in the recording. The Clippers will be back in Los Angeles for Game 5 on Tuesday night.
“We do hope to have this wrapped up in the next few days,” Silver said.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said players discussed boycotting Game 4 of their first-round playoff series during a 45-minute team meeting but quickly decided against it.
“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,” Rivers said. “Not splinter. Not walk. It’s easy to protest. The protest will be in our play.”
Clippers President Andy Roeser said in a statement that the team did not know if the tape is legitimate or has been altered. He said the woman on the tape, identified by TMZ as V. Stiviano, “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.’”
Roeser also said the recording does not reflect Sterling’s beliefs. He added that Sterling is “upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him” about Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, whom he called Sterling’s friend.
In the recording posted on TMZ, the man questions his girlfriend’s association with minorities. TMZ reported Stiviano, who is of black and Mexican descent, posted a picture of herself with Johnson on Instagram — which has since been removed.
The man asked Stiviano not to broadcast her association with black people or bring black people to games. The man specifically mentioned Johnson on the recording, saying “don’t bring him to my games, OK?”
Johnson, a target of Sterling’s remarks, said he wouldn’t attend Clippers’ games as long as Sterling was the owner.
James said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver should take swift action if the comments are found to be made by Sterling.
“Obviously, if the reports are true it’s unacceptable in our league,” James said. “It doesn’t matter, white, black or Hispanic — all across the races it’s unacceptable. As the commissioner of our league they have to make a stand. They have to be very aggressive with it. I don’t know what it will be, but we can’t have that in our league.
“We’re the model citizen of all sports around the world because we are the most recognizable figures. ... It’s very disrespectful and it’s appalling.”
One of James’ best friends, Chris Paul, plays for the Clippers.
James said he hasn’t spoken with Paul, but “I can only imagine what is going through his head.”
“I have kind of wavered back and forth if I would actually sit out,” James said. “If our owner would come out and say the things he said I would have to sit down with my teammates and talk to my family because at the end of the day, our family and teammates are way more important than that,. Basketball is huge and the playoffs have been unbelievable so far and I hate that something has to come out.”
In the recording, the man on the recorder questions his girlfriend’s association with minorities.
James said he’s not angry about the comments, just disappointed.
“I can only imagine if a player came out and said something of that stature what would happen to us as players,” James said. “I believe in Adam (Silver) and I believe in the NBA and they have to do something very fast before this really gets out of hand. But like I said there is no room for Donald Sterling in our league.”