Michael Jordan, NBA legend and owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, released a statement this afternoon saying that he is “obviously disgusted” by the “racism and hatred” Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling purportedly displayed in an audio recording released by TMZ this weekend.
The recording features a man TMZ says is Sterling telling his girlfriend not to bring black fans — including NBA legend Magic Johnson — to Clippers games, as well as a number of other racist and derogatory comments about African-Americans.
Jordan, who has famously shied away from publicly weighing on controversies like this throughout his career, released a statement Saturday through the Bobcats organization:
“I look at this from two perspectives — as a current owner and a former player. As an owner, I’m obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views. I’m confident that Adam Silver will make a full investigation and take appropriate action quickly.
As a former player, I’m completely outraged. There is no room in the NBA — or anywhere else — for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed. I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country and at the highest levels of our sport. In a league where the majority of players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level.”
Magic Johnson, who Saturday told CBS Los Angeles that Sterling should sell the team, reiterated those beliefs in an interview on ABC’s NBA Countdown broadcast Sunday. “You can’t understand how hurt I was and also, I was hurt for all African-Americans and all minorities,” Johnson said. “There’s no place in our society for it, there’s no place in our league, because we all get along, we all play with different races of people in sports.”
“I believe that once Commissioner Silver…does all his due diligence, gets all the information gathered, he’s got to come down hard,” Johnson continued. “He shouldn’t own a team anymore. And he should stand up and say, ‘I don’t want to own a team anymore.’”
An assortment of NBA players, including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, have called Sterling out for the comments. “There’s no room for Donald Sterling in the NBA — there is no room for him,” James said before the Miami Heat’s playoff game in Charlotte Saturday. Bryant tweeted that he wouldn’t play for Sterling. White players have weighed in too — “There’s definitely no place for it in the NBA,” Toronto’s Steve Novak, who played for the Clippers and said that Sterling’s racist views are “well known,” said Saturday.
President Obama slammed Sterling during a press conference in Malaysia.
Sunday, Deadspin released an extended version of the audio recording that contains even more racist comments. In that recording, Sterling blames society for his views. He’s also asked how he squares his feelings with the fact that he employs so many black players and justifies it because he gives them the money to buy “food, and clothes, and cars, and houses”:
“You just, do I know? 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? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced Saturday that the league was launching an investigation into Sterling’s comments in an attempt to verify that it is the Clippers owner speaking. If the league determines that it is indeed Sterling, “there are broad powers in place under the NBA’s constitution and bylaws that include a range of sanctions,” Silver said, according to ESPN. “All of those will be considered depending on the findings of our investigation.”
Silver announced that Sterling will not attend Sunday’s playoff game between the Clippers and the Golden State Warriors. While there have been calls for the Clippers to boycott the game, Johnson, who said he’ll no longer attend Clippers games while Sterling owns the team, said they should focus on playing and winning while everyone else handles Sterling for now.
“I talked to [Clippers head coach] Doc Rivers yesterday, and I wanted him to understand this: this is not his fight or the Clippers players’ fight. This is our fight. We’ll fight the battle for them,” Johnson said. “Their focus should be the game.”
Former NBA player and current ABC NBA analyst Jalen Rose, however, took the opposing view. During halftime of the Wizards-Bulls game, Rose said that after the latest comments, “I’m not going to lie to you guys. I’d go to hug each one of my teammates and let them know I loved them, but I wouldn’t be playing for that guy today.”
“Your owner comes out and compares the treatment of blacks to the treatment of dogs,” Rose continued. “He says, I give these guys food, I give these guys cars and I guy these guys homes. It’s demeaning. It’s embarrassing.”
The Clippers have decided to play today.
“They’re a lot more mature than I would be, a lot more responsible than I would be,” Rose said. “Growing up in the ’70s — I’m a ’70s baby so to speak — I got a chance to be exposed to Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown and how those socially conscious athletes handled problems. And a lot of times the way to handle problems is a) immediate, but you don’t want to do it with emotion, but b) when the stage is highest. There won’t be a bigger stage for the Clippers than today’s game. So whether it’s wearing black armbands, whether it’s black socks, whether it’s some sort of protest while you still participate, but they have to do something, obviously.”
This story was updated to include Jalen Rose’s comments.