Sterling fallout: Sponsors pulling support of Clippers

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Clippers players on Sunday wore their shirts inside out in protest to racist remarks attributed to the team's owner. (Credit: CNN)

LOS ANGELES — The sponsor backlash against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has begun.

CarMax, an online marketplace for buying cars, and the airline Virgin America said Monday they will end sponsorships with the Clippers after allegations of racist comments by team owner Sterling.

“CarMax finds the statements attributed to the Clippers’ owner completely unacceptable,” CarMax said in a statement. “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, in a statement, said: “While we continue to support the fans and the players, Virgin America has made the decision to end its sponsorship of the L.A. Clippers.”

Another sponsor, insurer State Farm, called Sterling’s reported comments “offensive.”

“While those involved sort out the facts, we will be taking a pause in our relationship with the organization,” State Farm said. “We are monitoring the situation and we’ll continually assess our options.”

State Farm also said it has “a great relationship” with Clippers point guard Chris Paul and will continue with the TV advertising campaign featuring him.

A fourth sponsor, Kia Motors America, said it will suspend its advertising and sponsorship activities with the organization.

Energy drink Red Bull also pulled the plug on its sponsorship efforts.

“We trust and respect the NBA’s process to formally investigate the matter, and in the interim, are suspending all team-related marketing activities,” said the company. But it will continue its relationship with another Clippers star, forward Blake Griffin.

Korean automaker Kia also suspended its marketing activities with the team.

“The comments allegedly made by Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, are offensive and reprehensible, and they are inconsistent with our views and values,” said the company.

Amtrak said its deal with the Clippers only ran through the end of the regular season, which concluded April 16.

“As with any sponsorship advertising, some assets remain in the market – to that end we are diligently working to remove all sponsorship assets,” said the government-owned railroad. It said it would monitor the situation as it looks to 2014-15 sponsorship decisions.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver will hold a news conference Tuesday to discuss the investigation as the league moves at the urging of the players’ union for a quick resolution to the matter.

“He should not continue owning the clippers,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant wrote Monday on Twitter.

TMZ released portions of recordings over the weekend of Sterling allegedly telling his girlfriend V. Stiviano to not brings blacks to games and urged her to delete a photo from Instagram of her and Magic Johnson.

On Sunday, Clippers players staged a silent protest before their playoff game against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif. The players removed their warmup shirts bearing team logos to reveal red T-shirts worn inside out, with the logos hidden. They finished warming up, removed the red shirts and played the game wearing their regular uniforms.

The league is trying to authenticate the tape that it’s Sterling’s voice, but Sterling’s estranged wife said it was her husband’s voice.
“Our family is devastated by the racist comments made by my estranged husband,” Rochelle Sterling said in a statement sent KABC-TV in Los Angeles. “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.”
At least three fellow owners — Washington’s Ted Leonsis, Miami’s Micky Arison and Charlotte’s Michael Jordan — have condemned Sterling’s comments.

“I’m obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views,” Jordan said in a statement. “I’m confident that Adam Silver will make a full investigation and take appropriate action quickly.”

Silver became commissioner Feb. 1, replacing David Stern, who held the position for 30 years.
“He’s got to come down hard,” Johnson said on ABC.
Also, the NAACP announced Sterling won’t receive a lifetime achievement award from the Los Angeles branch on May 15.

CNN contributed to this report.


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