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Racist rant puts team owner in spotlight
San Francisco (AP) - Anger, frustration and calls for action echoed around the NBA on Saturday after an audio recording surfaced of a man identified as Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to games.
Everybody except for the embattled Clippers owner, who has a decades-long history of discrimination and offensive behavior, seemed to have a response.
The league said it was investigating the recording posted on TMZ's website, calling the comments "disturbing and offensive."
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 Earvin "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 Sterling, a real estate owner, bought the Clippers in 1981. He is the longest-tenured owner in the NBA since Lakers owner Jerry Buss died last year.
He has been frequently criticized for his frugal operation of the Clippers, although in recent years he has spent heavily to add stars such as Paul and Rivers, who is in his first year as coach. Sterling also has been involved in several lawsuits over the years, including ones with accusations of discrimination.
In November 2009, Sterling agreed to pay $2.73 million to settle allegations by the government that he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics and blacks and to families with children. The Justice Department sued Sterling in August 2006 for allegations of housing discrimination in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles.
In March 2011, Sterling won a lawsuit against former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor when a jury rejected the Hall of Famer's claim of age discrimination and harassment. Baylor, who was 76 at the time, had sought about $2 million after claiming he was forced out of the job he had held for 22 years. The team said Baylor left on his own and a jury awarded him nothing.
Sterling is a courtside fixture at Clippers home games. But he rarely visits the team's locker room at Staples Center, although he made an appearance in December 2012 after they had won their 11th straight game, when he led an awkward locker room cheer.