Los Angeles Clippers players appeared to stage a protest against racist comments allegedly made by the team's owner by turning warm-up jerseys inside out so as not to have the team's name displayed ahead of a playoff game on Sunday.
Owner Donald Sterling is facing intense criticism after celebrity news site TMZ.com on Friday posted a 10-minute recording in which a person reported to be the NBA owner tells a woman not to post photographs of herself with black people online and not to bring African-Americans to Clippers games.
Most of the players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) are black.
Ahead of the playoff game against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Clippers players gathered at center court, dropped clothing with the team's name around the tip-off circle and then came out with their warm-up jerseys inside-out, keeping the "Clippers" name off of their chests.
The players had discussed boycotting the game, star guard Chris Paul told reporters. They came out for the game in their normal jerseys, but with black socks and bands that game announcers said were also part of a protest.
Players did not speak of the clothing protest ahead of the game, now underway. Sterling did not attend.
The NAACP said on Sunday that the nation's oldest civil rights group will not honor Sterling with a lifetime achievement award it planned to give the Clippers owner next month because of the controversy over the comments.
Basketball and political heavyweights also weighed in with Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson saying if it is proven that Sterling made the comments, then he should no longer own the team.
President Barack Obama said the comments were "incredibly offensive racist statements."
"When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance you don't really have to do anything, you just let them talk," Obama said when asked about the controversy during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The NBA has said it was investigating the recording, described by Commissioner Adam Silver as "truly offensive and disturbing". It could make a ruling by Tuesday, TV network ABC reported in its game broadcast.
MICHAEL JORDAN CALL COMMENTS "APPALLING"
The recording appears to be an argument between Sterling and a model who uses the name V. Stiviano about photographs posted to the social networking website Instagram.
"People call you and tell you that I have black people on my Instagram. And it bothers you," the voice alleged to be Stiviano's says, according to the recording at TMZ.com. She also says she herself is of Latino and black heritage.
"Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo ... broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?" the voice alleged to be Sterling's says.
Sterling is also allegedly heard telling the woman not to post photos of herself with Earvin "Magic" Johnson. "And don't bring him to my games, OK?"
It was not immediately clear when or how the conversation was recorded.
Sterling, who made his fortune in real estate, has not made any public comment.
Clippers President Andy Roeser issued a statement on Saturday saying he had listened to the recording on TMZ.
"We do not know if it is legitimate or if 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," he said.
"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," the statement said.
Sports news website Deadspin on Sunday posted more excerpts from what is said was a conversation between Sterling and the same woman. On it, Sterling is asked why he has a dim view of blacks, especially since he has a team almost full of black players.
"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 make the game, or do they make the game?" he is alleged to have said.
Sterling has faced allegations of discriminatory conduct in the past. In 2009, he paid $2.7 million to settle a case brought by the U.S. Justice Department which accused him of housing discrimination against blacks and Hispanics.
NBA playing great and current team owner Michael Jordan said in a statement the reported comments were "appalling."
"In a league where the majority of players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level," he said on Sunday.