UPDATE: 1:40 PM EST
As of Monday afternoon, five major companies have pulled their sponsorship from the LA Clippers.
They include Kia, Virgin America, State Farm, AquaHydrate and CarMax.
TMZ is also reporting that Donald Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly, is backtracking on comments she made denouncing his racist rant. In an exclusive video, Shelly can be heard saying her husband is not, in fact, a racist.
Donald and Shelly Sterling were leaving Fleming’s steakhouse in Downtown L.A. Sunday night … when a photog asked the Clippers owner if he was a racist … in light of the audio posted by TMZ Sports.
Donald was mum, but Shelly screamed at the camera guy, “OF COURSE NOT.”
You can watch the video here.
In fact, Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers, reportedly called Stiviano on Sunday to ask her how to prevent the rest of the recordings from being released to the public. If you recall, Sterling allegedly told Stiviano not to associate with black people or bring them to the Clippers’ games.
According to TMZ:
Sterling is keenly aware V. Stiviano is in possession of more than 100 hours of recordings … some of which are extremely damaging to Sterling’s reputation.
Our sources say Stiviano told Sterling to call her lawyer … and thereby opened the door to settlement discussions. It’s obvious the incentive for Sterling is to make sure the rest of the tapes never see the light of day.
Sources also tell TMZ that Stiviano is denying that she and Sterling ever dated, claiming that their relationship was strictly professional.
We’re told … Stiviano is claiming she worked for Sterling for 4 years as his “archivist” … along with working for a Clippers charity.
She is not characterizing her relationship with him as GF, BF … however, that would be news to Donald’s estranged wife Shelly Sterling. Sources connected to her tell us Shelly has absolutely no doubt Donald and V. were girlfriend, boyfriend.
Stiviano and Sterling’s relationship aside, Shelly Sterling did, however, have something to say about Sterling’s alleged racist comments.
“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 out clippers team.”
Shelly, who was seen at last night’s Clippers game, was present when the team decided to stand in a show of solidarity against Sterling.
Gathering at center court, the team took off their Clippers warm-up shirts and left them there. They then warmed up wearing inside-out red shooting shirts that did not display the Clippers name or logo. During the game, players wore black arm or wrist bands and black socks.
Coach Doc Rivers told ESPN he wasn’t sure what Sterling could say to make him return next season, but he did support his steam in their show of solidarity, save for the black socks (which he was not aware of).
“I knew about it. I didn’t voice my opinion,” Rivers said after the game. “I wasn’t thrilled about it, to be honest. But if that’s what they want to do, that’s what they want to do.”
But the team is vowing to stick together.
“[We] talked as a team about everything,” Chris Paul told ESPN. “Tried to keep internal, everything we decided to do has been together as a team.”
In the Clippers’ locker room before the game, “We are one” was written on the dry-erase board, which was the message players and coaches talked about before taking the court.
“We’re going to be one, everything we do, we do it together,” Paul said. “Stay together, play ball, we worked hard to be where we are, can’t imagine going through this with anyone leading us other than Doc.”
And that dissent is growing outside of the Clippers’ locker room as well. Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, who is working on behalf of the National Basketball Players Association, said the players want the NBA to ban Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from attending future playoff games this season.
“The players wanted to ensure that Mr. Sterling does not attend any games for the Clippers or any other team for the duration of the playoffs,” Johnson said. “We’re confident that the commissioner understood that this is an enormous distraction for everyone, and we want the focus to really be on the games and what’s taking place on the court, and he certainly understood that.”
We’ll keep you updated with the latest developments in this case.