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Pressure mounts on NBA team owner over racist comments attributed to him

By Ralph Ellis and Ashley Fantz CNN | 4/28/2014, 1:46 p.m.
Pressure is mounting on a National Basketball Association team owner who allegedly made racist comments.
LA Cliipers players hit the court for warm-ups wearing the warm-up jerseys backwards as a sign of protest toward owner Donald Sterling. Sterling is accused of making racist remarks in audio recordings recently released. Photo by Michael Flasch/CNN.

Pressure is mounting on a National Basketball Association team owner who allegedly made racist comments.

And it appears the NBA investigation into the audio recordings attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is moving swiftly, as the league has promised.

The league announced it would hold a 2 p.m. news conference on Tuesday to discuss the matter.

A number of NBA legends have slammed Sterling and called for quick action by the league. Hall of Famers including Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, and current greats such as LeBron James have said that if Sterling did indeed say what recordings posted on two popular news sites seem to suggest, he must face consequences.

Kevin Johnson, a former NBA star and the chairman of the National Basketball Players Association's executive committee, called on the NBPA website for an "immediate investigation."

If the reports are true, "there needs to be strong and swift action taken," he said.

Sterling has not commented publicly on the scandal. Team President Andy Roeser issued a statement this weekend that said "what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect (Sterling's) views, beliefs or feelings." He suggested that the recording was an attempt by a woman to "get even" with Sterling.

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers told reporters Monday that he was offered an opportunity to speak to Sterling after the comments attributed to the team's owner were posted online, but Rivers said he "passed." Rivers added, "I don't think right now is the time or place, for me at least. And so I just took a pass."

The coach, in his first year with the Clippers, said he believes that Sterling did make the comments, but said he wanted to find out if the recording was doctored.

Rivers confirmed the team's players had talked about boycotting a playoff game, but decided against it. Whether the coach or a player will address the fans before Tuesday's Game 5 against the Golden State Warriors is being discussed internally, Rivers said. The teams each have two wins in the best-of-seven-games series.

A pair of Clippers sponsors have taken action. Insurance company State Farm says it will be "taking a pause in our relationship with the organization," and airline Virgin America says that it continues "to support the fans and the players," but it has decided "to end its sponsorship of the L.A. Clippers."

Carmax, Red Bull and others have also pulled sponsorships, CNN Money reported.

Sterling was to receive a lifetime achievement award at an event next month to mark the 100th anniversary of the Los Angeles NAACP, but the national organization said Monday that would not happen.

Sterling had been given a lifetime achievement award from the organization in 2009, according to a brochure obtained by CNN.

Kevin Johnson spoke on CNN's "New Day" on Monday, saying that Sterling is in a unique position and that any measures taken should consider that.

"When you have an owner, they're in a position of influence," he said. "And players are out there working very hard to be good at their craft, to win ballgames, but every time we have a playoff game, there's dollars to be made. And if those dollars go into the pocket of an owner who doesn't value or respect players, that is very problematic."