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Chumash Tribe Pulls Sponsorship of L.A. Clippers Over Racist Remarks Attributed to Owner

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians announced Monday that it is withdrawing its sponsorship of the L.A. Clippers NBA basketball team after owner Donald Sterling allegedly made racist comments about black players.

An audio recording released on Friday allegedly features Sterling chiding his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, for being seen in public and posting photos of herself with African-American players, including Magic Johnson.

The NBA released a statement calling the remarks "disturbing and offensive," but said it had no other information and is launching an investigation.

On Monday, Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta explained the Chumash's decision to pull its sponsorship of the team.

"We’ve always been proud supporters of the Los Angeles Clippers," Armenta said. "However, the recent statements attributed to the Clippers’ owner have forced us to reconsider our relationship."

The group remains supportive of the members of the team, and wishes them the very best going forward, Armenta said.

However, "as a group that has long been marginalized itself, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and the Chumash Casino & Resort are especially sensitive to maintaining the dignity of all people," he wrote.

"We cannot ignore any statement that causes harm or hurts any group.  As a result, we’re withdrawing our sponsorship of the Clippers organization."

The tribe was a presenting sponsor of the team, and their logo appeared alongside the Clippers' on all ticketing, the team website and basketball goal posts on the team's court, according to Hildy Medina, public relations manager. 

Medina declined to release the dollar amount of the sponsorship.

Other advertisers and sponsors, such as CarMax, Virgin American Airlines and Kia Motors America, were among several organizations announcing Monday they would also be ending or suspending their sponsorships.

Stiviano is the subject of a lawsuit filed by Sterling's wife, Rochelle, seeking return of several expensive vehicles and homes her husband allegedly gave as gifts to Stiviano.

Sterling, a businessman and real estate developer, has owned the Clippers for 33 years. The team is tied 2-2 with the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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