Sponsors end Clippers sponsorship

Updated: April 28, 2014, 6:19 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Chumash Casino, the presenting sponsor of the Los Angeles Clippers, jumped ship Monday along with used car dealership chain CarMax and airline Virgin America as advertisers pondered their partnerships with the team in the wake of racist remarks allegedly made by owner Donald Sterling.

"We've always been proud supporters of the Los Angeles Clippers. However, the recent statements attributed to the Clippers' owner have forced us to reconsider our relationship," Vincent Armenta, tribal chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, said in a statement. "We remain supportive of the members of the team and we wish them the very best going forward.

"... We cannot ignore any statement that causes harm or hurts any group. As a result, we're withdrawing our sponsorship of the Clippers organization."

The casino, which has been the Clippers' most visible sponsor for the past four seasons, followed the lead of other companies that decided to part ways with the team earlier Monday.

"CarMax finds the statements attributed to the Clippers' owner completely unacceptable," the company said in a statement through public relations manager Catherine Gryp on Monday. "These views directly conflict with CarMax's culture of respect for all individuals. 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."

Virgin America said in a statement that it was cutting ties with the team "while we continue to support the fans and the players."

State Farm, Kia Motors America, Red Bull, Lumber Liquidators and Sprint have condemned the remarks and said they will suspend their sponsorship and advertising obligations, closely monitor the situation and assess their options.

Staples Center, the building that is home to the Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers, also issued a statement Monday afternoon.

"We are deeply troubled by these disturbing remarks which go against everything we believe in as an organization. We support the players, the coaches, the rest of the team and their fans and we are committed to providing a safe, secure and welcoming environment for everyone at tomorrow night's NBA playoff game."

The comments allegedly made by Sterling were to his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, on an audio recording obtained and released by TMZ. The man making the comments urged Stiviano not to bring black friends to Clippers games.

"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?" the man believed to be Sterling says. He continues, "You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in. You can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that ... and not to bring them to my games."

The NBA and the Clippers are investigating whether the male voice on the recording is Sterling's, and the league will hold a news conference Tuesday in New York to announce "additional details" regarding the matter.

Deadspin released an extended 15-minute version of the conversation Sunday.

In that recording, the woman assumed to be Stiviano asks, "Do you know that you have a whole team that's black that plays for you?"

The man responds, "You just, do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have -- who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners that created the league?"

Stiviano's lawyer released a statement Sunday afternoon that stated the tapes were legitimate. The quotes came from approximately an hour's worth of recorded conversation, which Stiviano says she did not leak to the media.

Sterling was at Game 3 of the Clippers-Warriors series Thursday night in Oakland, Calif., and was planning to be at Game 4 on Sunday before speaking with the league and agreeing not to attend games as it investigates the comments. Sterling's wife, Rochelle, however, was at Sunday's game and sat courtside across from the Clippers' bench.

"I don't condone those statements, and I don't believe in them," Rochelle Sterling told ESPN. "I'm not a racist. Never have been, never will be. The team is the most important thing to my family."

She expounded on those comments Monday morning, releasing a statement that read: "Our family is devastated by the racist comments made by my estranged husband. My children and I do not share these despicable views or prejudices. We will not let one man's small-mindedness poison the spirit of the fans and accomplishments of the team in the city we love. We are doing everything in our power to stand by and support our Clippers team."

Leon Jenkins, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP, confirmed that Sterling would no longer be presented with a second lifetime achievement award and that any donations made to the organization by Sterling would be returned. He did not say how much money was involved.

Game 5 is Tuesday in Los Angeles. R&B singer Tank, who was scheduled to sing the national anthem, will not participate as a form of protest, TMZ reported Monday.

Darren Rovell of ESPN.com and Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com contributed to this report.

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