As the Clippers faced off against the Golden State Warriors in an NBA playoff game Sunday, basketball fans and bystanders across Los Angeles grappled with the racist rant attributed to team owner Donald Sterling and shared their thoughts.
At 1739 Public House in Los Feliz, bartender Curtis Swanson said Sterling had been known as a racist and slumlord for 35 years. He doubted anything substantial would come of the controversy because "he's got more money than the people yelling at him.”
“I grew up in the Deep South and old money is always racist money,” Swanson, 38, said. “It's no different here. It's just people jumping on the bandwagon."
As for the fans, "they don't realize who they're supporting. He's a slumlord. Unfortunately, it's his team. They won't do a thing. They'll fine him and have him miss some games."
Swanson said that Sterling's comments would not turn him against the Clippers, however. He doesn’t support a boycott and will continue to follow the team.
"I love Chris Paul,” he said. “I've never seen Sterling out on the court throwing an assist.”
Among the crowd packing Buffalo Wild Wings, a watering hole and restaurant with more than a dozen television screens at the Crenshaw Mall south of Los Angeles, actor David Andrew Lesley weighed his words carefully.
“I hate the very idea of this owner putting his young players in a position to choose between chasing their dreams on the court or standing up in defense of their own dignity -- how dare he,” the 40-year-old Marina del Rey resident said. “How dare he make them wonder whether they should play their hearts out or sit out the game because this owner doesn’t want to associate publicly with African Americans or other minorities.”
“Wake up, Donald Sterling. Wake up,” Lesley said.
Cynthia Gibson echoed the sentiments of many others in the 64-table establishment, which had called in every available staffer in anticipation of record business for a playoff game.
“It’s as though a secret door has been thrown wide open,” she said, sipping a frosty glass of lemonade, “revealing things many people had been trying to hide but every black person knows as hard facts of life.”
Late Friday, TMZ posted an audio recording it said captures Sterling making racist statements in the course of an argument with a woman identified as V. Stiviano. The Times has not confirmed the authenticity of the tape.
"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associated with black people," the man in the recording says, later adding: "I'm just saying, in your … Instagram, you don't have to have yourself with, walking with black people."
A second audio recording allegedly capturing Sterling making insensitive racial remarks was released Sunday, days after the first tape was made public.
Some sports fans are still trying to reconcile the billionaire who allegedly chastised his girlfriend for posting a picture along Lakers legend Magic Johnson with the owner who hired a black coach, Doc Rivers, to head his team.
"It's just so out of place for this man, knowing his position," said Stan Jackson, 58. "He's right in the middle of a sport that's predominantly black. It's not like he's the owner of a white-dominated hockey team where he can hide and not have to mingle with blacks. It just does not add up. He's surrounding himself around people that he doesn't really care for."
Jackson described himself as a Lakers fan, but said he appreciates the sport of the basketball as a whole and fear that Sterling's statements will affect the sport.
"It's just bad for the NBA," he said. "I'm worried about how this will impact the league. And it's just bad we have to keep revisiting this shameful sore of racism. We don't need this during the playoffs."
The controversy over Sterling prompted marital discord between Nick and Shannon Kearney in the sports bar at El Chollo, south of downtown.
They had biked there from their home in North Hollywood and had no plans to watch the game, which had just started and was visible on TV screens near their table.
But they still were ready to debate each other.
“It’s a generational thing,” said Nick, 34, speaking about the comments by the 80-year-old Sterling.
“That’s unexcusable,” said Shannon, 31, who did not immediately clarify whether she was talking about Sterling or what her husband had said.
“How many old grandparents have you met who are racists?” Nick asked.
“He should have a major fine,” Shannon said.
“You can’t fine someone for being racist,” Nick asserted.
“Yes, they can.”
“No, they can’t.”
Nick, a graphic designer for a fashion company, then added: “The NBA can boot him out. They can’t really fine him. People are allowed their views in private.”
“I totally disagree,” said Shannon, who manages a sales region for a brand of cosmetics. “You don’t know the conversation. He said: ‘Do not bring black people to my games.’”
“That’s a private conversation," Nick said. “He’s worried about what he looks like to his buddies and friends. It’s the old boys club. But you can’t punish somebody for being a member of the old boys club. He didn’t say that in a public forum.”
Shannon was speechless for a second. “I’m appalled by that,” she then shot back.
“I didn’t say it wasn’t appalling,” Nick conceded.
Times staff writer Emily Alpert Reyes contributed to this report.