SAN FRANCISCO — It’s no secret Clippers coach Doc Rivers abhors racism, so he was not in his typical, jovial mood when he met with reporters Saturday after practice at the University of San Francisco.

Rivers and his players, who will take on the Golden State Warriors today at 12:30 p.m. at Oakland’s Oracle Arena in Game 4 of their Western Conference playoff series, were staggered by alleged racist comments made by team owner Donald Sterling.

TMZ early Saturday released a 9-plus minute audio of — allegedly Sterling — scolding his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, for hanging out with African Americans.

This was just one of many racially charged remarks that centered on Stiviano having posed for a picture with Magic Johnson at a recent Clippers game: “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast ... that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”

Stiviano is half-Mexican, half African-American.

“I don’t know if I’m surprised or not,” Rivers said. Sterling once was sued for wrongful termination by former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor, who accused Sterling of age discrimination as well as racism. The latter claim was dropped before the beginning of the trial which ended in Sterling’s favor.


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“I didn’t like the comments, obviously,” Rivers said. “I’ll tell you now I’m speaking on behalf of the team. The players are not going to deal with this issue. We had a great team meeting this morning about it. A lot of guys voiced their opinions and none of them were happy about it.

“This is a situation where we’re trying to go after something very important for us. And Donald Sterling or anyone else had nothing to do with that training and we’re not going to let anything get in the way of it.

“As far as the comments, we’re not happy with any of them. But we’re going to let the due process, everything get handled.”

The NBA has launched an investigation. Johnson, now part owner of the Dodgers, sent out these tweets:

• “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.”

TNT analyst Charles Barkley chimed in.

“This is the first test for Adam Silver,” Barkley said during halftime of Saturday’s Pacers-Hawks game; Silver is the new NBA commissioner. “He has to suspend this guy. This is habitual. He has already had the lawsuit for discrimination that he settled. So clearly he was doing something wrong. This is the first big test. He has to suspend this guy. He has to suspend this guy.”

Sterling previously settled a housing discrimination lawsuit brought by the government after being accused of refusing to rent to Hispanics and African-Americans. He also was sued for housing discrimination in Los Angeles’ Koreatown.

Team president Andy Roeser released a statement on behalf of Sterling.

“We have heard the tape on TMZ. We do not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered. We do know that the woman on the tape — who we believe released it to TMZ — is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by the Sterling family alleging that she embezzled more than $1.8 million, who told Mr. Sterling that she would “get even.” Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings.

 

“It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life. He feels terrible that such sentiments are being attributed to him and apologizes to anyone who might have been hurt by them. He is also upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him about Earvin Johnson. He has long considered Magic a friend and has only the utmost respect and admiration for him — both in terms of who he is and what he has achieved. We are investigating this matter.”

Harry Edwards, sociology professor at Cal-Berkeley, was not astonished at these newest allegations.

“He has such a body of work that I’m not surprised that would be his sentiment,” he said. “I was surprised that he would be so straight forward and open even to someone close to him. Secondly, I was surprised that whoever had those tapes would turn them over and had to have some understanding of the impact of that situation.

“I’m glad they did because these are the kind of people we have to expose. Those kind of people have to get out of the business of sport because of the impact they can have.”

The Clippers’ Chris Paul and Blake Griffin adhered to what Rivers said about the players not addressing the issue at this time.

“Basketball questions,” Paul said when asked about Sterling.

Said Griffin: “I mean, we’re here to play basketball. So what Doc said goes.”

However, as promised, Paul later released a statement as president of the National Basketball Players Association.

“On behalf of the National Basketball Players Association, this is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively,” the statement read. “We have asked (Sacramento) 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.”

Johnson works with the NBPA and also issued a statement. In part, it read, “The reported comments made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling are reprehensible and unacceptable. The National Basketball Players Association must and will play a very active role in determining how this issue is addressed.”

This situation tugs at one awful sector of society Rivers can’t stand. He said he heard the entire, derogatory audio feed.

“Listen, it could have been blacks ... it doesn’t matter. I don’t like racism,” Rivers said, with an emphasis on those last four words.

He said he has heard calls for boycotting and protesting, but there is no way his team would consider not showing up today.

“We choose to play,” he said. “Why should we let someone’s comments stop us from what we’re trying to do?”

Rivers said he had not spoken with Sterling, but he was asked if he would like to.

“Not right now,” he said. “I want to deal with my team.”

There was something else he stressed.

“Listen, they’re young men,” Rivers said. “It shouldn’t be African-American. We have two white guys (Hedo Turkoglu and J.J. Redick). It’s about being human. So we’re not going to get to what race we are because we represent each other. And this is our team.

“And that’s the way we’re going to keep it. No one was happy about it. J.J. Redick was just as pissed as Chris Paul. And that’s the way it should be.”