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The NBA has launched a probe into alleged racially-charged remarks by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling which has sparked widespread outrage and calls for action from the league.
The uproar began when TMZ's website provided an audio recording it claimed came from an April 9 argument between Sterling and his girlfriend, identified only as V. Stiviano, over a photograph she posted on Instagram with former Los Angeles Lakers basketball legend Magic Johnson.
"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you are associating with black people. Do you have to?" Sterling allegedly said.
"You can sleep with (black people). You can bring them in. You can do whatever you want. The little I ask is not to promote it on that ... and not to bring them to my games."
NBA commissioner Adam Silver vowed on Saturday to move quickly with the probe. He said it starts with the audio recording to try and verify the authenticity of it.
"The audio recording posted by TMZ is truly offensive and disturbing," Silver said. "We will move extraordinary quickly in our investigation."
Silver said they plan to interview Sterling, and the woman on the tape, and hopefully have the probe wrapped up before the Clippers next home game on Tuesday night.
"Donald Sterling should be afforded due process just as any player in this league or executive in this league," Silver said during a news conference in Memphis where he is attending a NBA playoff game.
"It would be unwise of me and improper to express a view as to what the outcome of any investigation would take us too."
In the 10 minute tape, the male voice tells the woman that her association with African Americans bothers him and then asks her to stop bringing black people to Clipper games. Later in the audio, the woman identifies herself to be "black and Mexican".
"In your lousy ... Instagrams you don't have to have yourself walking with black people," says the male voice.
The Clippers lead the Golden State Warriors two games to one in a best-of-seven first-round playoff series that continues Sunday. Silver said Sterling has "agreed" not to attend the contest in Oakland, California.
- Black eye for the NBA -
Johnson reacted swiftly on Twitter vowing that he and his wife Cookie would never attend another Clippers' game as long as Sterling owns the team.
"I feel sorry for my friends Coach Doc Rivers and Chris Paul that they have to work for a man that feels that way about African Americans," he added.
"LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling's comments about African Americans are a black eye for the NBA."
The Clippers have launched their own probe of the comments, team president Andy Roeser said in a statement given to ESPN.
Roeser said the remarks on the recording do not reflect Sterling's opinions on race and that the woman identified as Stiviano is involved in a legal dispute with Sterling.
The woman "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,'" Roeser's statement said.
"Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings," the statement added, noting the team was unsure whether the recording "has been altered."
But Sterling, who has owned the Clippers since 1981, has expressed racist sentiments before, according to a tweet from former Clipper standout Baron Davis.
"That's the way it is.. He is honest about what he believes in.. Been going on for a long time, Hats off 2 the Team.. 4 playin above it all," Davis wrote.
The Clippers have not gone past the first round of the playoffs under the 80-year-old Sterling, who made his fortune in real estate.
Jesse Jackson, an outspoken African-American leader and former US presidential candidate, called for fans to boycott Clippers' games.
"If we are just going from picking cotton balls to picking basketballs, then we are not making progress. It's about dignity," Jackson told ESPN.
Jackson also called for action to be taken by the league before the weekend was over.
Sterling was fined $2.7 million in 2009 by the US Justice Department to settle allegations he discriminated against African-Americans, Hispanics and families with children at Los Angeles apartment buildings he controls.
In 2011, Sterling won a lawsuit filed by former Clipper general manager Elgin Baylor, who accused the club of firing him based upon his age.
Sterling was not available for comment.