Sponsors Drop Clippers Over Sterling's Alleged Racist Remarks

By Riya Bhattacharjee
|  Monday, Apr 28, 2014  |  Updated 6:19 PM EDT
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Sponsors Drop Clippers Over Sterling's Alleged Racist Remarks

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling looks on as his team plays against the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 10, 2013 in Los Angeles. Some of the Clippers' sponsors have severed their ties with the team over racist comments Sterling allegedly made.

Some of the Los Angeles Clippers' largest sponsors are severing their ties with the team in efforts to distance themselves from the controversy surrounding its owner's alleged racist remarks.

Virgin America, Sprint, Red Bull, AQUAhydrate and used car retailer CarMax are among the growing list of companies to express their disappointment, all of them issuing statements decrying racism and upholding diversity.

San Francisco-based Virgin America said in a statement: "While we continue to support the fans and the players, Virgin America has made the decision to end its sponsorship of the LA Clippers."

Car manufacturer KIA called Clippers owner Donald Sterling's alleged comments about black people "reprehensible."

State Farm called them "offensive" in its own statement. "While those involved sort out the facts, we will be taking a pause in our relationship with the organization. We are monitoring the situation and we'll continually assess our options," it said.

The audio recording posted on the TMZ website is of a male voice criticizing a woman for posting online about bringing black friends to the games. The man is also heard chastising the woman for posting a photo on Instagram with Magic Johnson.

NBC News has not been able to authenticate the audio tapes posted on TMZSports.com or the extended clips posted by Deadspin. The TMZ report alleges the male voice is that of Sterling.

Clippers president Andy Roeser released a statement, saying: "Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life."

The NBA is expected to hold a press conference Tuesday on its investigation involving Sterling's alleged remarks.

The TMZ report sparked a firestorm on Friday, with NBA players and others, including President Barack Obama and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, issuing statements. Basketball fans are calling on the NBA to take action against Sterling.

When asked about his players' mental state, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said Saturday that the playoffs, and his players, must go on.

"They've been pulled in a million directions in the last 24 hours," Rivers said. "I feel like we let them down, my job is to get them up and get them ready."

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who himself played in the NBA for 12 years, addressed the racism allegations against Sterling on behalf of the NBA Players Association at a press conference Sunday.

"The comments are unacceptable – if what has been alleged was actually stated, there should be sanctions ... The NBA family will have zero tolerance for such conduct – today, tomorrow and forever," he said.

Johnson said that the players did not want Sterling present during the rest of the playoffs until the issue was resolved.

"The players are outraged, due process has to take place," he said. "This is a defining moment for all the players in the League."

On Sunday, the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) announced that Sterling will not be receiving a lifetime achievement award from its Los Angeles branch.

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