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Celtics, Others React to Donald Sterling’s Racist Comments

Donald Sterling (Danny Moloshok/AP)

One of the most exciting NBA Playoff first rounds in recent memory has been partly overshadowed by a recording of Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist comments in a conversation with apparent girlfriend V. Stiviano. The reactions from around the league, from players to media to other owners, have made the national news over the weekend.

In the recording, released Friday by TMZ, the 80-year-old Sterling, who acquired the Clippers in 1981 and was the subject of a discrimination lawsuit in 2009 filed by then-executive Elgin Baylor, is heard telling Stiviano not to “broadcast that you’re associating with black people… You can sleep with them. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it… and not to bring them to my games.”

Sterling’s rant was apparently a reaction to a picture Stiviano posted on Instagram of herself with Hall of Famer Magic Johnson at a recent game. On Sunday, Deadspin published an extended audio recording, in which Stiviano asks Sterling, “Do you know that you have a whole team that’s black, that plays for you?” Sterling responds, “I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses.”

Johnson was one of the first to react, saying that Sterling should be forced to to sell the team immediately, a sentiment that was echoed by fellow HoFers and current TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, as well as current Bobcats owner Michael Jordan. As for the Clippers themselves, team president Andy Roeser released a statement casting doubt on the authenticity of the recording, while the head coach, former Celtic Doc Rivers, said that the players did contemplate a boycott ahead of Sunday’s game 4 at Golden State, which the Warriors won comfortably, 118-97.

Ultimately, the Clippers players, among them current Players Association president Chris Paul, staged a silent protest, dropping their warmup jackets on the court and wearing t-shirts inside-out so as to not show the team logo prior to the game. The repercussions for the franchise could be greater: on Monday morning, unconfirmed reports surfaced that State Farm Insurance had withdrawn its sponsorship of the team. Anecdotally, the Village People have demanded that their 1978 hit “Y.M.C.A.” not be played at the Staples Center during Clippers games anymore.

Among members of the Celtics, guard Jerryd Bayless was the first to take to Twitter. Bayless, an impending free agent, said he wouldn’t play for the Clippers as long as Sterling remains the owner:

On Sunday, The Boston Globe‘s Gary Washburn relayed the contents of an email from Celtics CEO Wyc Grousbeck, which read in part: “[NBA commissioner] Adam Silver is leading the NBA response to the alleged comments. I will say that what I heard on that tape goes against everything the Celtics stand for and our ownership, players, coaches and fans reject it.”

Former Celtic and current broadcaster Cedric Maxwell also spoke with the Globe, saying that “this is [Silver's] first real test and his first true statement… You have to put Donald Sterling in check and that team has to be sold.”

It is unclear at this point whether the NBA can, legally, force Sterling to sell, but given the Clippers owner’s well-known litigious nature, the only safe bet is that we’re nowhere near the end of this story.

About Nick García - @N_A_Garcia

Nick is the Celtics and college sports editor at Sports of Boston. He writes about basketball, football and anything else that comes his way. Follow him on Twitter @N_A_Garcia

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