Calling racist statements that were allegedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling “incredibly offensive,” President Obama says he is confident the NBA will resolve the controversy that erupted after an audio recording of the comments was aired this weekend.
“I don’t think I have to interpret those statements for you; they kind of speak for themselves,” Obama said when he was asked about the recording during his visit to Malaysia Sunday. He added, “When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk. And that’s what happened here.”
The president also noted that 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.”
The NBA says it is investigating the audio recording to determine whether the man speaking on it is in fact Sterling. Commissioner Adam Silver said last night that the recording is “disturbing and offensive” and that the league hoped “to have this wrapped up in the next few days.”
As we reported Saturday, the recording is of a man and woman arguing about several things, particularly her sharing photos online that show her “associating with black people,” as the man puts it.
The recording was posted online by TMZ Friday night, sparking anger and controversy that derailed talk about this weekend’s NBA playoffs. Last night, the Clippers released a statement in which the organization didn’t outright deny that the voice on the recording belongs to Sterling. But the team says the views aired in the recording are “the antithesis” of who Sterling is.
Here’s part of the Clippers’ statement about the recording, via the Los Angeles Times:
“We do not know if it is legitimate or [if] it has been altered. We do know that the woman on the tape — who we believe released it to TMZ — 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.’”
The team says that Sterling is upset about the “sentiments attributed to him” and that he apologizes to anyone they offended — including Magic Johnson, who is mentioned by name in the recording when the man says, “don’t bring him to my games.”
In discussing the controversy, President Obama talked about “the vestiges of discrimination” that are still present in America. And he said that in a sense, the outrage over the remarks is itself a sign of progress:
“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 some statements like this stand out so much is because there had been — there has been this shift in how we view ourselves.”