President Obama weighed in on a racist recording of Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, while touring Malaysia on Sunday. Sterling was caught on an audio recording yelling at his girlfriend not to “broadcast that you’re associating with black people,” and ordered her to stop bringing black people to Clippers games.
“When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk,” Obama said in response to a question about Sterling.
But rather than dismiss the comments as the vitriol of one old man, Obama contextualized them as a symptom of the broader racial struggle that characterizes American history.
“The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that’s still there, the vestiges of discrimination,” he said. “We’ve made enormous strides, but you’re going to continue to see this percolate up every so often. And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this stand out some much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves.”
Some players, including LeBron James and the Lakers’ Kendall Marshall, are encouraging the Clippers to sit out the playoffs in protest of Sterling. Rev. Al Sharpton is also organizing a protest outside the Clippers-Warriors game on Tuesday.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver promised to investigate the recording, but he may feel a bit more pressure now that the president’s scrutiny is on him. Obama said he was confident Silver would take the matter seriously, as the NBA has “an awful lot of African American players, it’s steeped in African American culture. And I suspect that the NBA is going to be deeply concerned in resolving this.”