[LA FEATURE]Sterling Firestorm

LA FEATURE

Coverage of the NBA's move to oust Clippers owner Donald Sterling

Virgin America, KIA, State Farm, CarMax Pull Sponsorship From Clippers

Sponsors have distanced themselves from the Clippers amid an investigation involving the team's owner

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    TK
    Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 10: Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, looks on as his team plays against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on April 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Companies began yanking sponsorship from the Los Angeles Clippers in an effort to distance themselves from the controversy surrounding the team and its owner.

    Virgin America, Sprint, Red Bull, AQUAhydrate and used car retailer CarMax are among the growing list of companies to express their disappointment, all of them issuing statements decrying racism and upholding diversity.

    San Francisco-based Virgin America said in a statement: "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."

    Used car chain company CarMax joined the chorus. And so did car manufacturer KIA, which called Donald Sterling's alleged comments about African Americans in a taped phone call to his then-girlfriend "reprehensible."

    State Farm decided to explain why the insurance giant decided to end its relationship with the team for now:

    "State Farm strongly supports and respects diversity and inclusion in its workforce and customers. 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 asses 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."

    The audio recording, posted on the TMZ web site, that sparked the outrage is of a male voice criticizing a woman for posting online about bringing African-American friends to the games. The man is also heard chastising the woman for posting a photo on Instagram with Magic Johnson.

    NBC News has not been able to authenticate the audio tapes posted on TMZSports.com or the extended clips posted by Deadspin, which allege the voice belongs to Sterling.

    Clippers president Andy Roeser released a statement, saying: "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 NBA is expected to hold a press conference Tuesday to make an announcement about its investigation involving Sterling's alleged remarks.

    The TMZ report sparked a firestorm on Friday, with NBA players and others, including President Barack Obama and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, issuing statements. Basketball fans are calling on the NBA to take action against Sterling.

    When asked about the mental state of his players, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said Saturday that the playoffs must go on.

    "They've been pulled in a million directions in the last 24 hours," Rivers said. "I feel like we let them down, my job is to get them up and get them ready."

    Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, who played in the NBA for 12 years, held a press conference Sunday to address the racism allegations against Sterling on behalf of the NBA players association.

    "The comments are unacceptable - if what has been alleged was actually stated, there should be sanctions ... The NBA family will have zero tolerance for such conduct - today, tomorrow and forever," he said.

    On Sunday, the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) announced that Sterling will not be receiving a lifetime achievement award from its Los Angeles branch

    Johnson said that the players did not want Sterling present during the rest of the playoffs until the issue was resolved.

    "The players are outraged, due process has to take place," he said. "This is a defining moment for all the players in the League." he said.