Corporate Sponsors End Ties to the Clippers

Photograph by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Sponsors are beginning to respond today to the racism scandal surrounding Los Angeles Clipper owner Donald Sterling. NBA officials are preparing to hold a press conference to address the situation on Tuesday afternoon, and it seems doubtful—given the sponsor exodus—that the league will do anything to help exculpate Sterling.

In just the first business day since the release of an audio recording of Sterling telling his then-girlfriend to avoid publicizing her associations with black people, several sponsors have already dropped the team. Below are collected sponsor statements. It is worth noting that the companies are careful to distinguish between relationships with the team and any of its players.

CarMax: “CarMax finds the statements attributed to the Clippers’ owner completely unacceptable. These views directly conflict with CarMax’s culture of respect for all individuals. 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.”

State Farm: “State Farm strongly supports and respects diversity and inclusion. 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 assess 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.”

Virgin America: “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.”

Red Bull: “We trust and respect the NBA’s process to formally investigate the matter, and in the interim, are suspending all team-related marketing activities. We will continue to support our Red Bull athlete, Blake Griffin, his teammates and coaching staff in their pursuit of an NBA title.”

Kia Motors: “The comments allegedly made by Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, are offensive and reprehensible, and they are inconsistent with our views and values. We are suspending our advertising and sponsorship activations with the Clippers. Meanwhile, as fans of the game of basketball, our support of the players and the sport is unwavering.”

Aquahydrate (via Twitter, confirmed on the phone): “In the wake of Sterling’s alleged intolerable comments we are suspending our Clippers sponsorship until the NBA completes its investigation.”

Amtrak: “Amtrak believes the language used is unacceptable and is inconsistent with our corporate belief to treat everyone with integrity and dignity.  Our sponsorship with the LA Clippers expired at the end of the regular season a few weeks ago.  As with any sponsorship advertising, some assets remain in market—to that end we are diligently working to remove all sponsorship assets.  Moving forward, we will continue to monitor the situation as we look to make decisions about 2014-15 sports marketing sponsorships.”

Chumash Casino Resort: “We’ve always been proud supporters of the Los Angeles Clippers, however, the recent statements attributed to the Clippers’ owner have forced us to reconsider our relationship.  We remain supportive of the members of the team and we wish them the very best going forward. 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. We cannot ignore any statement that causes harm or hurts any group. As a result, we’re withdrawing our sponsorship of the Clippers organization.”

Lumber Liquidators: “In light of the racist comments allegedly made by the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Lumber Liquidators is suspending all planned advertising for the team’s 2014-2015 season until further notice.”

Yokohama Tire Corporation: “Yokohama Tire Corporation does not tolerate discrimination in any fashion. The alleged remarks by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling are completely unacceptable and we find it necessary to immediately suspend our sponsorship of the organization as a result. We will continue to assess the situation and weigh our options. Meanwhile, we wish to express our continued support to the Clippers players and fans.” 

Corona/Constellation Brands: “Like everyone else, Corona is appalled by the comments allegedly made by the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. These comments run counter to the type of brand Corona aspires to be. Because of this, we are suspending our sponsorship agreement with the Clippers until the NBA completes its investigation.”

Samsung: “As a sponsor of the NBA, we have a deep respect for the game of basketball and the players, coaches, referees associated with the game. The comments made are offensive, unacceptable and conflict with our core values as a company, and as a result we have decided to suspend current advertising slated to run onsite at the L.A. Clippers games and also during the televised airing of the Clippers games.”

Mercedes-Benz, per Bloomberg News, is ending its sponsorship with the Clippers and Sprint is suspending.

Update (4/29/24):

Adidas:  “We are suspending our current marketing partnership with the Los Angeles Clippers.  We will continue to monitor and evaluate our partnership with the team.  We are committed to the players, coaches and training staff.  Our status as the official on-court provider of the NBA remains unchanged.” Adidas spokesperson says this means no signage at Clippers games but logos on warm-up and other gear are unchanged.

Burger King: ”We object to the comments attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. We support the players in the National Basketball Association and have suspended further sponsorship efforts as we are currently evaluating our relationship with the Clippers. We are closely following the investigation into this matter as we work to determine our course of action.”

MGM Resorts: Chief executive James Murren told Fox Business this afternoon that his company had suspended its Mandalay Bay sponsorship with the Clippers. “We love the Clippers,” Murren said, “we just hate what that man said.”

That brings the latest count to twelve suspensions: State Farm, Red Bull, Kia Motors, Aquahydrate, Lumber Liquidators, Yokohama Tire Corporation, Corona, Samsung, Sprint, Adidas, Burger King, and MGM Resorts. Four terminations: Carmax, Virgin America, Chumash Casino, Mercedes-Benz. And one we-were-already-out: Amtrak.

NBA sponsor Anheuser-Busch had this to say: “As the Official Beer of the NBA, we are disappointed to hear the alleged recent comments attributed to L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling. While Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light are not team sponsors of the LA Clippers, we fully support the NBA’s efforts to investigate quickly and trust that they will take appropriate action.”

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