Stemming from the recorded, racist comments allegedly spoken by L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, sponsors of the basketball team are quickly abandoning the franchise while the NBA investigates the situation. Virgin America, CarMax and Mercedes-Benz USA have released statements today that state the companies will be completely terminating all sponsorship deals with the L.A. Clippers. Mercedes-Benz was a particularly complex sponsorship relationship as the company offered a “Preferred Valet Experience” at the games which included court-side club passes and valet parking to Mercedes owners at the Staples Center.
Statements from these companies admonishing Sterling’s remarks have been fairly severe. For instance, a CarMax representative stated “CarMax finds the statements attributed to the Clippers’ owner completely unacceptable. While we have been a proud Clippers sponsor for nine years and support the team, fans and community, these statements necessitate that CarMax end its sponsorship.” A Kia Motors representative said “The comments allegedly made by Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, are offensive and reprehensible, and they are inconsistent with our views and values.”
In addition, the number of companies that are suspending sponsorship of the team during the NBA investigation is a much longer list. Companies on that list include the previously-mentioned Kia Motors as well as Samsung, Corona, Sprint, Red Bull, AQUAhydrate, State Farm, Diageo, LoanMart, Lumber Liquidators and Yokohama Tire Corporation. Even Amtrak chimed in to distance the company from the basketball team, despite already ending a sponsorship deal with the Clippers at the end of the regular basketball season.
The only team owner that’s significantly spoken out against Sterling after the comments were released by TMZ, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan said “As an owner, I’m obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views. I’m confident that Adam Silver will make a full investigation and take appropriate action quickly.”
Jordan continued “As a former player, I’m completely outraged. There is no room in the NBA — or anywhere else — for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed. I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country and at the highest levels of our sport. In a league where the majority of players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level.”
Hall of Famer Magic Johnson also chimed in on Twitter as he was specifically mentioned in Sterling’s comments. Johnson tweeted “I will never go to a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner…I feel sorry for my friends Coach Doc Rivers and Chris Paul that they have to work for a man that feels that way about African Americans…LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s comments about African Americans are a black eye for the NBA.” Other NBA stars, like Kobe Bryant, have tweeted that Sterling shouldn’t be allowed to own the franchise anymore.
Promising a quick investigation on the matter, NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke a couple days ago and is planning a Tuesday news conference at 2 p.m. ET in New York to further address the issue. Analysts believe that Sterling will be suspended from ownership for an undetermined time period as well as fined significantly for his comments. More severe punishment, like forcing a sale of the franchise, typically requires violations like gambling, game fixing or financial impropriety.