Players from the Los Angeles Clippers have staged a protest at a playoff game over racist comments allegedly made by the basketball team’s owner Donald Sterling, turning their warm-up jerseys inside-out to hide the team name before a loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Sunday’s silent demonstration came as Sterling faced a barrage of criticism over a 10-minute recording obtained by celebrity news website TMZ, in which a man reported to be Sterling tells a woman not to post photographs of herself with black people online and not to bring African-Americans to Clippers games.
The taped remarks have rocked the National Basketball Association (NBA), where most of the players are black, and left its officials scrambling to address the scandal that has threatened to overshadow the playoffs.
Ahead of the game against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Clippers players dropped sweat-jackets with the team’s name around the tip-off circle, and then came out with their warm-up jerseys inside-out, keeping the “Clippers” name off of their chests, the Reuters news agency reported.
The players had discussed boycotting the game, star guard Chris Paul told reporters. They came out for the game in their normal jerseys, but with black socks and bands that game announcers said were also part of a protest.
Players did not speak of the clothing protest ahead of the game, which Sterling did not attend.
The Clippers lost the game, 97-118, as their opponents, the Golden State Warriors, evened the playoff series at two games each.
‘Insulting to all’
Afterwards, Clippers coach Doc Rivers declined to blame the loss on the furore, saying that the Warriors had outplayed his team and took responsibility for failing to prepare them mentally for the big game.
“Certainly I believe everybody was affected by what took place. I don’t think it was just the Clippers. I think it’s insulting to all of us,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “I think both teams were somewhat bothered by what took place the last 24 hours.”
Sterling has faced allegations of discriminatory conduct in the past. In 2009, he paid $2.7m to settle a case brought by the US Justice Department which accused him of housing discrimination against blacks and Hispanics.
The NBA said it was investigating the recording, described by its Commissioner Adam Silver as “truly offensive and disturbing”.
It could make a ruling by Tuesday, US TV network ABC reported in its game broadcast.
Elsewhere in the playoffs, the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Houston Rockets 123-120, the Washington Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls 98-89 and the Toronto Raptors downed the Brooklyn Nets 97-79.