The NBA will hold a press conference on at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday to make an announcement about its investigation into audio recordings that allegedly feature Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling making multiple racist comments, league executive vice president of communications Mike Bass announced Monday.
Details on the league's investigation and findings remain scarce, but a Tuesday announcement dovetails with the timeline sketched out by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver during his Saturday press conference in Memphis.
Silver said Saturday that the league's investigation was "very focused on the audio tape that was posted by TMZ [...] and the facts around it," most notably the authenticity of the tape "and understanding the context in which it was recorded," and would include interviews with Sterling and "potentially" the woman whose voice is heard on the tape, who is reportedly V. Stiviano, Sterling's girlfriend.
That tape allegedly features Sterling admonishing Stiviano for broadcasting her associations with African-Americans by posting Instagram photos with the likes of former Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson and Los Angeles Dodgers star Matt Kemp on her Instagram account and telling her not to bring African-Americans to Clippers games. A longer version of the audio posted by Deadspin allegedly features Sterling, among other things, describing his relationship to his Clippers players in a troubling fashion: "I support them and give them food and clothes and cars and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have — who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game?"
"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," Clippers president Andy Roeser said in a team statement.
Reaction to Sterling's alleged comments has been negative, powerful and wide-ranging. Johnson called for Silver to come down hard on Sterling on Sunday, saying he shouldn't be allowed to own a team anymore; Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported Sunday that Magic and the business partners who bought the Dodgers from Frank McCourt "want a chance to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers [and that] steering a Clippers sale to him could be transformative for the franchise."
The Clippers players considered boycotting Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday before deciding to wear their warm-up shirts inside-out and dump them at center court before the game. A distracted Clippers squad was blown out by the Warriors, sending them home to L.A. tied at two games apiece, wholly uncertain of what kind of response they'll receive at Staples Center in Tuesday's Game 5.
"We're going home now," head coach Doc Rivers said. "And usually that would mean that we're going to a safe haven. And I don't even know if that's true, to be honest."
"I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous," said All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who is also the president of the National Basketball Players Association.
Should the league's investigation conclude that it was Sterling's voice on the tape in question, and that he did make the comments that Silver categorized as "truly offensive and disturbing," it remains unclear just what sort of actions the league can take against the 80-year-old owner. Silver said Saturday that there are "broad powers in place under the NBA's constitution and bylaws that include a range of sanctions" that can be levied against Sterling.
Those bylaws are not public, but multiple sources have reported that they include a "best interests of the game" clause that could be used to suspend Sterling; as Sports Illustrated sports law expert Michael McCann writes, "the NBA's most likely remedial action would be to fine Sterling," although "even a record-breaking fine of an NBA owner — say $1 million or $5 million — may not feel like much of a punishment for Sterling."
"Requiring the sale of a team would be the most severe sanction," sports lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, a partner at Winston & Strawn LLP, told Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal. It is also considered a very unlikely sanction for the league to try to, or be able to, enforce.
The ongoing controversy has begun to impact the Clippers' business relationships, too. Virgin America and CarMax have ended their sponsorships with the organization, while Kia, AQUAhydrate and Red Bull have suspended their involvement with the Clippers, and State Farm is "taking a pause in [its] relationship with the organization."
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