Insurance company State Farm is suspending its sponsorship with the Los Angeles Clippers after racist comments allegedly made by team owner Donald Sterling surfaced over the weekend, the chief executive of the marketing company that counts State Farm as one of its clients announced on ESPN Radio’s “The Herd” Monday morning. State Farm issued a statement Monday saying that while its sponsorship was not formally ending, it would “take a pause” in its relationship with the team.
In the audio recording posted by TMZ, a man the site claims is Sterling told his girlfriend that he didn’t want her to bring black people — including NBA legend Magic Johnson — to his games, and Deadspin obtained further audio that contained even more racist comments.
“The remarks attributed to the Clippers’ owner are offensive. While those involved sort out the facts, we will be taking a pause in our relationship with the organization,” State Farm said in an email statement. “We are monitoring the situation and we’ll continually assess our options.”
The statement said that the company has “a great relationship” with Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who appears in State Farm ads alongside his alter-ego, Cliff Paul. But that agreement is separate from the one with the team and won’t be affected.
Rev. Al Sharpton and others have called on other companies to quit sponsoring the team until Sterling is no longer the owner too, and it’s possible more could follow.
Sterling’s racism is attracting the attention of NBA players, fans, and now sponsors, but his history of racism isn’t new: he has reached two multimillion-dollar settlements in housing discrimination suits, both of which alleged that he wouldn’t rent apartments to black or Latino tenants, in the last decade, and he faced an employment discrimination suit from former general manager Elgin Baylor in 2009. Still, give credit to State Farm for taking action now — as players, owners, fans, media, and sponsors continue to take notice of Sterling’s bigotry, it makes it increasingly hard for the NBA to look the other way as it has in the past.
Carmax has also officially announced an end to its nine-year partnership with the Clippers. “CarMax finds the statements attributed to the Clippers’ owner completely unacceptable,” the company told TMZ. “These views directly conflict with CarMax’s culture of respect for all individuals. While we have been a proud Clippers sponsor for 9 years and support the team, fans and community, these statements necessitate that CarMax end its sponsorship.”
And more could be coming, according to Sharpton:
CNBC reports that Virgin America has also ended its partnership with the Clippers:
BuzzFeed reports another sponsor has joined the list:
RedBull joins in:
Amtrak says its sponsorship with the Clippers has already expired but called Sterling’s comments “unacceptable and inconsistent with our corporate belief to treat everyone with dignity.”