Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson called Monday for a third-party independent review to determine whether Clippers owner Donald Sterling violated any nondiscrimination laws as part of his tenure with the team.
In a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Wesson warned the league may have a conflict of interest as it investigates racist remarks attributed to Sterling in an audio recording posted Friday by TMZ.
Wesson asked Silver to meet personally with Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council, saying public confidence in the NBA’s ability to address the controversy is in doubt. He also suggested state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris as a possible choice to conduct a legal review of Sterling’s activities as team owner.
“As an owner, Mr. Sterling has exercised absolute control over his franchise. It has now become imperative to look into how his attitudes on race have governed his leadership of his franchise,” Wesson wrote.
Silver has said the league may conclude its investigation in the next few days. He hasn’t said what the league might do if the recording is authenticated, but penalties are likely to include fines or a suspension from operating the team.
TMZ posted the audio recording Friday, which purportedly captures Sterling telling a woman identified as V. Stiviano that, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people.” In the recording, the people identified as Stiviano and Sterling argued over the woman posting a photo of herself on Instagram alongside Magic Johnson.
An attorney for Stiviano told the Los Angeles Times that the recording was authentic. Clippers President Andy Roeser said in a statement Saturday that the team did not know if the man recorded was Sterling but that the comments didn’t reflect Sterling’s “views, beliefs or feelings.”
Sterling has yet to comment about the recording.
Wesson is one of three African Americans on the 15-member City Council and its first black president. In his letter, he asked the league to disclose the scope of its investigation while noting that “public confidence in the Clipper ownership has been destroyed.”
The council’s other black representatives have also reacted sharply to the Sterling controversy. Councilman Curren Price, whose district includes Staples Center where Clippers games are played, said he would no longer attend games as long as Sterling is owner.
Councilman Bernard C. Parks intends to introduce a motion on Tuesday demanding NBA sanctions and calling for the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers to stop running ads that promote Sterling’s real estate empire.
The leaked audio recording is just the latest in a years-long string of racially charged incidents linked to the real estate mogul.
In 2009, Sterling agreed to a $2.765-million settlement in a case that alleged discrimination against African Americans, Latinos and others at apartment buildings he owned in Los Angeles County.
He settled another federal lawsuit filed in 2003 by the Housing Rights Center and 19 tenants that accused Sterling of once stating his preference not to rent to Latinos, and saying “black tenants smell and attract vermin.”
The settlement in that case was confidential.