(USA TODAY) - The NBA is investigating whether racially insensitive comments in an audio recording obtained by TMZ were made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
"The remarks heard on the recording are disturbing and offensive, but at this time we have no further information," NBA executive vice president of communication Mike Bass said. He also said the league is conducting a "full investigation."
The players union is also looking into the situation, according to president Chris Paul, who is also the Clippers point guard.
"On behalf of the National Basketball Players Association, this is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively," Paul said in a statement. "We have asked Mayor Kevin Johnson to expand his responsibilities with the NBPA, to determine our response and our next steps. As players, we owe it to our teams and our fans to keep our focus on our game, the playoffs, and the drive to the Finals."
Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, who is helping the union find its next executive director, called for an investigation and possible punishment.
"The reported comments made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling are reprehensible and unacceptable," Johnson said in a statement. "The National Basketball Players Association must and will play a very active role in determining how this issue is addressed.
"There needs to be an immediate investigation and if the reports are true, there needs to be strong and swift action taken. I have spoken with NBPA President Chris Paul and will be leading the NBPA in addressing the implications of this serious matter. I will be formally reaching out to the NBA today to determine our next steps. While I originally came on to lead the Executive Director search, this issue requires immediate attention from the players association. I will be keeping Chris Paul, the Executive Committee, and all player representatives informed of every step."
This is NBA commissioner's Adam Silver first major issue to resolve since replacing David Stern in February, and the union, players and coaches are awaiting his response.
Clipppers president Andy Roeser issued a statement on the situation:
"We have heard the tape on TMZ. We do not know if it is legitimate or 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." 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. He feels terrible that such sentiments are being attributed to him and apologizes to anyone who might have been hurt by them. He is also upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him about Earvin Johnson. He has long considered Magic a friend and has only the utmost respect and admiration for him--both in terms of who he is and what he has achieved. We are investigating this matter."
In the nearly 10-minute recording, the person asked a female associate "why are you taking pictures with minorities, why?" and told her not to bring to Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson to Clippers games.
In an audio obtained by TMZ and posted on its web site, the person said it bothers him that she posted photos of herself with black people on her Instagram account. After a recent Clippers game, the woman took a picture with Johnson.
"Don't put him on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. … And don't bring him to my games, OK?" the person said on the audio recording.
"Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?" person also said.
Johnson responded on Twitter Saturday: "LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling's comments about African Americans are a black eye for the NBA."
And, "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."
One Clippers player who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity expressed great anger and frustration over the situation, but said it was unclear how the players would react as a whole.
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan posted a picture on his Instagram account that was presumably a reaction of the social media sort: an all black shot of darkness with no caption.
Former Clippers point guard Baron Davis, who had well-chronicled battles with Sterling during his time there, wrote on his Twitter account, also presumably about Sterling, "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."
Saying the comments were upsetting to him and the team, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said the team will not boycott Game 4.
"I'm disappointed in the comments made," Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson told reporters Saturday. "It's unfortunate. I believe there's no place in society for those feelings. It's just sad."
Jackson played for the Clippers in 1992-93 and 1993-94. He didn't say what he would do if he played for the them now.
"My feeling would be the same, no matter if I was coaching, playing or a fan. There's no place for it. … In fairness, I'm not in their position, and that's their fight – as far as that's the uniform that they wear," Jackson told reporters. "From my standpoint, it's important for me to let it be known that it's unacceptable, it's unfortunate, and I'm disappointed in the statements. There's no place for it."
He also didn't suggest what the league should do.
"We have a great commissioner, and I'm sure the powers that be will do their homework and then make the proper decisions," Jackson said. "This is the real world. I'll go out on a limb and say that the statements that were made, there are other people in this world who feel that way. Let's not be naïve. … There are people in the world, who own a lot of stuff and feel that way."
Civil Rights Leader Jesse Jackson has called for the Clippers to boycott, while other prominent African Americans have also taken strong stances against the comments allegedly made by Sterling. Well-known rap artist Snoop Dogg posted a profanity-laced video on his Instagram account condemning Sterling.
In March, Sterling's wife, Rochelle, filed a lawsuit alleging the woman, identified as V. Stiviano, had an affair with her husband, according to Los Angeles' CBS affiliate reported in March.
In 2005, Sterling, a real estate tycoon, agreed to pay an undisclosed amount in a lawsuit that alleged Sterling tried to force Koreans out of apartments in Koreatown.
In 2009, Sterling paid a then-record $2.73 million Justice Department penalty for rental housing discrimination.
If the league determines the person the recording is Sterling, it's not immediately clear what action if any it could take. Former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott was twice banned from day-to-day baseball operations for racist and anti-Semitic comments.
The league might have to consider that Sterling was speaking privately and quite likely did not know was being recorded.
Sterling, the NBA's longest-tenured owner, has owned the Clippers since 1981. The Clippers have a 2-1 lead against the Golden State Warriors in their best-of-seven first-round series. Game 4 is Sunday in Oakland.
The male voice on the recording made it clear he doesn't want the woman to be seen in public with minorities. "You can sleep with them, you can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little that I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games," the person said.
He said she could associate with minorities privately and asked, "Why publicize it on the Instagram and why bring it to my games?"
The person also tried to explain he is "living in a culture, and I have to live within the culture. So that's the way it is."
When the woman told the person he associates with black people, he replied, "I'm not you, and you're not me."
The woman told him she's sorry he feels that way and he answered, "I feel that way so strongly, and it may cause our relationship to just break apart. And if it does, it does."
At one point he told her, "maybe you're stupid."