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Sterling's racist audio won't keep Clippers from NBA playoffs

Donald Sterling has long been one of the most despised owners in the NBA. Yet even with his Los Angeles Clippers contending in the NBA playoffs, Sterling hit a new permanent low on April 26, when an audio tape of him with racist connotations was posted by TMZ. It was so toxic that some suggested the Clippers shouldn't play in the playoffs until Sterling was removed, and some allegedly considered it -- but Game 4 against the Golden State Warriors will go as planned on April 27.

Clippers to play for Sterling despite alleged racist rant
Clippers to play for Sterling despite alleged racist rant
Photo by Stephen Dunn

The NBA is currently investigating whether TMZ's tape truly has Sterling talking to his mixed race girlfriend -- and ranting about her associating with Magic Johnson and other African-Americans. He allegedly attacks her for openly "associating with black people" while asking her not to "promote it" or "bring them to my games" or post pictures with them on Instagram, as she did with Johnson.

Sterling has owned the Clippers for 30 years, and has caused more incidents of racist behavior than the Clippers have had winning seasons, at least until a few years ago. Now that his team is finally a championship contender and leads its first series of these NBA playoffs, this tape threatens to derail their run -- if not outright put the team under fire for even playing now.

Once the tape hit the Internet and Sterling was roundly condemned, the hashtag #BoycottClippers became huge on Twitter. The calls weren't just for fans to boycott the team, but for its players and staff to sit out until Sterling sells the team or is banned for life.

According to ESPN Los Angeles, the players and Rivers considered sitting out on April 26, but it was rejected -- although that hardly stopped the debate. ESPN's Keith Olbermann was most vocal on Twitter in urging the Clippers to sit out the playoffs, concluding the mere threat of losing playoff games would force the NBA to remove Sterling immediately.

Commissioner Adam Silver did vow an investigation into Sterling would end "in the next few days," The Clippers' next home game is on April 29, so something would probably have to happen before Sterling can attend.

If it doesn't, or if an eventual punishment against him isn't enough, then the Clippers won't hear the last of calls to take matters into their own hands -- even if it means forfeiting a championship.