Obama calls Sterling’s alleged comments ‘incredibly offensive’

President Obama, framed by the Malaysian flag behind him, speaks at a town hall meeting at Malaya University in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

During a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Sunday, President Obama criticized racial comments attributed to Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

The global reach of Sterling’s purported words came into focus when the president addressed the matter after answering a question regarding the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Full coverage: The Donald Sterling controversy

Obama, an avid basketball fan, never used Sterling’s name, but expressed confidence that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver would deal with the situation.

Here’s the president’s full response:


“With respect to the statements by the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers -- for our Malaysian audience, this is a sports team, basketball team in the United States. The owner is reported to have said some incredibly offensive racist statements that were published. I don’t think I have to interpret those statements for you; they kind of speak for themselves. When people -- when ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk. And that’s what happened here.

“I am confident that the NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, a good man, will address this. Obviously, the NBA is a league that is beloved by fans all across the country. It’s got an awful lot of African-American players. It’s steeped in African-American culture. And I suspect that the NBA is going to be deeply concerned in resolving this.

“I will make just one larger comment about this. The United States continues to wrestle with a legacy of race and slavery and segregation that’s still there -- the vestiges of discrimination. We’ve made enormous strides, but you’re going to continue to see this percolate up every so often. And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why some statements like this stand out so much is because there had been -- there has been this shift in how we view ourselves.

“And like Malaysia, we constantly have to be on guard against racial attitudes that divide us rather than embracing our diversity as a strength. And I know that the people of Malaysia are committed to wrestling with those issues as well. We have to make sure that we stay on top of it -- and we will.”

Twitter: @nathanfenno