The wife of Clippers owner Donald Sterling released a statement Sunday denouncing an audio recording allegedly capturing the billionaire making racist statements.
In her statement told to ESPN’s Lisa Salters, Rochelle Sterling said that while she had not listened to the entire recording, she did not condone “those statements that you heard.”
“I do not believe in them. I am not a racist. I never have been, I never will be,” she said. “The team is the most important thing to my family.”
Two websites posted recordings over the weekend that they identify as a conversation between Donald Sterling and a female friend. A person the websites identified as Sterling can be heard castigating the friend for associating with blacks — even though Sterling’s team and the league it plays in are 80% African American.
The NBA is investigating the remarks, which have yet to be authenticated, and a decision on possible punishment for Sterling is expected soon. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player who serves as an advisor to the league’s players union, said the harshest possible sanctions must be considered by the league.
A lawyer for the woman, V. Stiviano, said Sunday that the tapes were “legitimate” and that they came from a conversation that was roughly an hour long.
In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on March 7, Rochelle Sterling describes Stiviano as a gold digger who seduces older, wealthy men and persuades them to shower her with gifts.
Rochelle Sterling alleges that her husband used community property to buy Stiviano a 2012 Ferrari, two Bentleys and a 2013 Range Rover, worth a total of more than $500,000.
Sterling also allegedly gave Stiviano $1.8 million to buy a duplex on West 4th Street near the Beverly Center last December, according to the suit, which claims that Sterling additionally provided her with $240,000 for upkeep and living expenses.
The property was supposed to be held in the Sterlings’ name, Rochelle Sterling contends, but Stiviano has title and has refused to relinquish it. Arguing that the gifts were allegedly made without Rochelle Sterling’s knowledge or consent, the complaint seeks their return along with compensatory damages.
Stiviano’s attorney said his client didn’t leak the recording to the media.
The Clippers lost, 118-97, to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday to tie the Western Conference quarterfinals series at two games apiece. Despite talk of a possible boycott, players staged a silent protest, taking off their warmup tops and tossing them in unison near the jump-ball circle, which revealed their shooting shirts were turned inside-out to hide the Clippers logo. They also wore black wristbands and black socks.