Donald Sterling Controversy: More Sponsors Ending Partnership With L.A. Clippers
UPDATED: Red Bull, CarMax, Virgin America, Kia, Yokohama, AquaHydrate, Mercedes-Benz, Corona and State Farm are terminating or suspending their sponsorships, while Anheuser-Busch wants the NBA to take "appropriate action."
A growing number of sponsors have ended or suspended their partnerships with the Los Angeles Clippers amid the controversy surrounding owner Donald Sterling's racist and inflammatory remarks.
CarMax was the first to pull out Monday morning.
"CarMax finds the statements attributed to the Clippers' owner completely unacceptable," said the company in a statement Monday. "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."
Meanwhile, State Farm interim CEO Steve Stoute said Monday morning on ESPN's The Herd With Colin Cowherd that he's putting pressure on fellow sponsors to pull out of their sponsorships as long as the team is associated with Sterling.
"I'm telling the brands, 'Let's pull sponsorship,' starting with State Farm," he said, as quoted by the Washington Post. "When you have things like this taking place, somebody has to stand up."
He added that "somebody has to force the sale of this team." He later clarified: "Sponsoring the athletes is one thing, but not the team."
The company also issued a statement: "The remarks attributed to the Clippers' owner are offensive. While those involved sort out the facts, we will be taking a pause in our relationship with the organization. We are monitoring the situation and we'll continually assess our options. We have a great relationship with Chris Paul and will continue supporting the Born to Assist advertising campaign involving Chris and now other NBA players."
Red Bull is another big name to decline their support, according to a statement from the energy drink company. "We trust and respect the NBA's process to formally investigate the matter, and in the interim, are suspending all team-related marketing activities.
"We will continue to support our Red Bull athlete, Blake Griffin, his teammates and coaching staff in their pursuit of an NBA title," an e-mail to THR concluded.
Another sponsor, Anheuser-Busch, on Monday released a statement to ESPN's Darren Rovell: "We fully support the NBA’s efforts to investigate quickly and trust that they will take appropriate action."
Virgin America has also chosen to end its sponsorship of the team, as have Mercedes-Benz and Corona.
"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," a spokesperson for the airline told THR.
Another sponsor, Kia Motors, released a statement condemning Sterling's remarks and explaining that it was suspending sponsorship of the team.
"The comments allegedly made by Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, are offensive and reprehensible, and they are inconsistent with our views and values," the statement read. "We are suspending our advertising and sponsorship activations with the Clippers. Meanwhile, as fans of the game of basketball, our support of the players and the sport is unwavering."
AquaHydrate also issued a statement saying it's suspending its sponsorship.
"In the wake of Donald Sterling’s alleged defamatory and intolerable comments we have decided to suspend our sponsorship with the L.A. Clippers until the NBA completes its investigation," a rep for the company said Monday. "We fully support the players and fans of the L.A. Clippers and wish them the best in the remainder of the playoffs."
Yokohama Tire Corporation announced they were also pulling out on Monday, stating: "Yokohama Tire Corporation does not tolerate discrimination in any fashion. The alleged remarks by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling are completely unacceptable and we find it necessary to immediately suspend our sponsorship of the organization as a result.
"We will continue to assess the situation and weigh our options. Meanwhile, we wish to express our continued support to the Clippers players and fans."
Other sponsors who have yet to comment include Amtrak, Gatorade, and Taco Bell.
In addition, the Staples Center, which has been the Clippers' home arena since 1999, issued a statement on Monday that read: "We are deeply troubled by these disturbing remarks which go against everything we believe in as an organization.
"We support the players, the coaches, the rest of the team and their fans and we are committed to providing a safe, secure and welcoming environment for everyone at tomorrow night’s NBA playoff game."
Sterling's tirade was prompted when his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, posted a photo of herself with Magic Johnson on Instagram. In the audio remarks obtained by TMZ and Deadspin, Sterling expresses displeasure about having "black people" attend Clipper games.
On Sunday, the Clippers players made a public show of solidarity in a silent protest against racism by coming onto the court before the game against the Golden State Warriors at Oakland's Oracle Arena with their warm-up jerseys on inside out to hide the team logo.
Rather than having the Clippers' logo emblazoned on the front, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and their teammates wore plain red as they walked out before the tip-off for Game 4 in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
In the crowd, Warriors fans held up signs that read: "Magic always welcome at Oracle" and "No racism here."
Sterling was not at the game.