News and Views
Clippers Sponsors Drop The Team Over Allegedly Racist Owner
Corporate sponsors started to distance themselves from the Los Angeles Clippers Monday after a tape surfaced over the weekend of the team’s owner Donald Sterling allegedly making racist remarks.
In a statement provided to The Huffington Post Monday, Carmax, a used car chain, confirmed it would cut ties with the team, ending a nine-year partnership. Virgin America also confirmed to HuffPost that it would end its sponsorship with the Clippers, noting that the company continues to “support the fans and the players.”
Insurance giant State Farm, carmaker Kia, AQUAhydrate, a company that sells enhanced water, energy drink Red Bull, as well as Sprint are all reportedly suspending their sponsorships with the team. LoanMart, an auto title loan company, also wrote on its Facebook page that it’s suspending its advertising and marketing relationship with the Clippers and monitoring the situation.
“CarMax finds the statements attributed to the Clippers’ owner completely unacceptable. These views directly conflict with CarMax’s culture of respect for all individuals,” a CarMax spokeswoman wrote in an email to HuffPost. “While we have been a proud Clippers sponsor for 9 years and support the team, fans and community, these statements necessitate that CarMax end its sponsorship.”
CarMax’s decision just hours after Steve Stoute, the CEO of marketing firm Translation, which represents State Farm, told ESPN radio that the insurance giant will be pulling its sponsorship as well.
“What I’m going to do and what I think is important from my side is I’m telling the brands immediately ‘let’s pull sponsorship’ starting with State Farm,” Stoute said. “When you have things like this taking place, somebody has to stand up.”
When directly asked by ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd whether State Farm would be pulling its sponsorship, Stoute said yes and said he expects other brands to pull out in the next 48 hours. State Farm hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment asking about the company’s status with the Clippers.
In a statement released to HuffPost, State Farm said that the company will “pause” its relationship with the Clippers while “those involved sort out the facts.” The company still plans to work with Clippers star Chris Paul.
“State Farm strongly supports and respects diversity and inclusion in its workforce and customers. The remarks attributed to the Clippers’ owner are offensive,” the statement reads. “We are monitoring the situation and we’ll continually assess our options.”
A spokeswoman from AQUAhydrate, another Clippers sponsor, wrote in an email statement to HuffPost that “In the wake of Donald Sterling’s alleged defamatory and intolerable comments” the company would “suspend” its sponsorship with the Clippers until the NBA completes its investigation. Sprint is doing the same, the company wrote in an email to HuffPost. Kia is also suspending its sponsorship with the Clippers, according to a tweet from CNBC SportsBiz. Kia hasn’t responded to a request for comment from HuffPost.
Red Bull is also “suspending” team marketing activities with the Clippers, while the NBA investigates Sterling’s alleged statements, according to a statement the company released to BuzzFeed. Red Bull still plans to “support” Clippers player Blake Griffin.
Steve Kulm, an Amtrak spokesman, wrote in an email to HuffPost that the firm’s sponsorship with the Clippers ended a few weeks ago at the end of the team’s regular season. Though some of its sponsored advertising is still in the market the company is “diligently working to remove all sponsorship assets” and will monitor the situation as they look to make decisions for the 2014-15 season.
“Amtrak believes the language used is unacceptable and is inconsistent with our corporate belief to treat everyone with integrity and dignity,” Kulm wrote.
Corona is also “reviewing” its sponsorship agreement with the Clippers to “to determine appropriate next steps,” spokeswoman Emily Reynolds wrote in an email to HuffPost.
“Like everyone else, Corona is appalled by the comments allegedly made by the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers,” she wrote. “These comments run counter to the type of brand Corona aspires to be.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton, an activist and MSNBC host, vowed Monday to pressure companies that work with the team and the NBA to cut ties until the league rids itself of Sterling.
NBA sponsor Anheuser-Busch wrote in an email statement that they “fully support the NBA’s efforts” to quickly investigate Sterling’s remarks. The company’s last sponsorship deal with the Clippers ended in 2009.
TMZ released an audio recording surfaced late Friday of a man believed to be Sterling instructing his then-mistress not to bring black people to Clippers games. The recording, which went viral within a view hours, sparked outrage across the country, eliciting responses from NBA legend Michael Jordan, Miami Heat Star LeBron James, the Clippers themselves and even President Obama.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a statements released to CNBC by Kia, as well as statements from State Farm, Anheuser-Busch, Virgin America, AQUAhydrate, Amtrak, Sprint and Corona.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to Steve Stoute’s firm as Transition. It is actually Translation.
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