The Los Angeles Clippers released a statement Saturday questioning the legitimacy of an audio recording released by TMZ allegedly of team owner Donald Sterling making racist comments.
"We have heard the tape on TMZ. We do not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered," Clippers President Andy Roeser said in the statement, adding that the franchise will investigate the matter further.
The purported comments triggered a National Basketball Association investigation and led basketball legend Magic Johnson to describe the comments as "a black eye for the NBA."
The recording sparked an uproar in the league, but also among fans on social media, where the hashtags #DonaldSterling and #BoycottClippers were trending nationally.
The statement released by the Clippers goes on to say the taped comments do not reflect Sterling's views or beliefs.
"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," the statement read.
The audio recording posted on the TMZ website is of a male voice criticizing a woman for posting online about "associating with black people" and bringing them to games. The man is also heard chastising the woman for posting a photo on Instagram with Johnson.
TMZ reported the woman on the tape was Sterling’s girlfriend, but in the statement released by the Clippers, the president claimed she was an individual the Sterling family had sued.
“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,’” the Clippers’ statement read.
In reaction to the reported comments, Johnson tweeted Saturday: "I will never go to a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner."
The Clippers statement said Sterling has long considered the basketball legend a friend.
"[Sterling] 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," the statement reads.
NBC News was unable to independently verify the audio.
The National Basketball Players Association released a statement saying it would address the matter "aggressively," while continuing to focus on the playoff games.
"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," read the statement from the players' organization. Clippers point guard Chris Paul is the president of the NBPA.
Sacramento Mayor and former NBA player Kevin Johnson said in a statement he has spoken with Paul and "will be leading the NBPA in addressing the implications of this serious matter. I will be formally reaching out to the NBA today to determine our next steps."
First published April 26 2014, 3:56 PM