Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson takes on expanded role with NBPA in light of Donald Sterling controversy

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson speaks with Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadivé. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

In light of the latest allegations of racism by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is taking on an expanded role with the NBPA. In a statement released by the player’s association on Saturday, Johnson will now assist the union in determining a response to the news involving the Clippers majority owner.

“On behalf of the National Basketball Players Association, this is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively,” Union president and Clippers point guard Chris Paul said in a prepared statement. “We have asked Mayor Kevin Johnson to expand his responsibilities with the NBPA, to determine our response and our next steps. As players, we owe it to our teams and our fans to keep our focus on our game, the playoffs, and a drive to the Finals.”

An audio recording of Sterling supposedly making racist remarks has gone viral after TMZ went live with the tape Friday. The recording is of an alleged conversation Sterling had with his girlfriend, who ironically is half-Mexican/half-African American, in which the Clippers owner made negative comments about minorities, including Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.

The Sacramento mayor called the reported remarks by Sterling “reprehensible and unacceptable”. Mayor Johnson had originally been brought in by the player’s union earlier this month to help them in their search for a new executive director. But now, he is taking on additional responsibilities in light of the controversy involving Sterling.

“The National Basketball Players Association must and will play a very active role in determining how this issue is addressed,” Johnson said in a written statement. “There needs to be an immediate investigation and if the reports are true, there needs to be strong and swift action taken. I have spoken with NBPA President Chris Paul and will be leading the NBPA in addressing the implications of this serious matter. I will be formally reaching out to the NBA today to determine our next steps. While I originally came on to lead the Executive Director search, this issue requires immediate attention from the Players Association. I will be keeping Chris Paul, the Executive Committee, and all player representatives informed of every step.”

On Saturday morning, the NBA issued a statement, announcing that it is in “the process of conducting a full investigation” on the matter. The league called comments heard on the recording released by TMZ to be both “disturbing and offensive” but additionally had no further information.

The real-estate mogul has a long and well-documented history of discriminatory and racist behavior. In 2009, Sterling paid a record $2.7 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed he discriminated against minorities and families with children at apartment complexes he owns around the Los Angeles area. Sterling, who has owned the Clippers since 1981, was also sued by Elgin Baylor after his former general manager claimed he was fired based on age discrimination. The suit was later rejected by a Los Angeles County jury in 2011.

Sterling’s Clippers take on the Golden State Warriors in game 4 of a first-round playoff series tomorrow afternoon in the bay area.

LISTEN: Alleged audio of Clippers owner’s racist remarks to girlfriend (via TMZ)

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.