By Julissa Catalan
More than a dozen sponsors have severed or suspended ties with the Los Angeles Clippers following Donald Sterling’s recent racism scandal.
The first sponsor to undo its relationship with the Clippers was CarMax. The auto-dealership giant announced on Monday that after a nine-year relationship, it would no longer be supporting the team. In a statement, CarMax said, “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 nine years and support the team, these statements necessitate that CarMax end its sponsorship.”
Chumash Casino, one of the Clippers’ strongest sponsors for the last four seasons, also pulled the plug. “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,” Vincent Armenta, tribal chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, said in a statement. “We remain supportive of the members of the team and we wish them the very best going forward. We cannot ignore any statement that causes harm or hurts any group. As a result, we’re withdrawing our sponsorship of the Clippers organization.
Meanwhile, Virgin America released a statement soon after saying: “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.”
Other companies that dropped sponsorship include: Aqual-Hydrate, Corona, Kia, LoanMart and Yokohama Tire.
Some sponsors have been careful to balance their support for players and fans with the paid sponsorships of Sterling’s business.
Energy-drink makers Red Bull did away with its sponsorship, but said it will still work exclusively with Clippers forward Blake Griffin.
Sprint remains the team’s official telecommunications provider, though it will no longer be involved in any sort of marketing activities with the Clippers.
State Farm has only suspended, not severed, ties with the Clippers, but did say that Sterling’s comments were “offensive” when announcing it would be “taking a pause in our relationship with the organization.” The insurance company then specified that it has a great relationship with Clippers star Chris Paul and will continue to feature the point guard in their TV advertising campaign.
It’s estimated that the severed and suspended sponsorships will cost the Clippers approximately $15 million to $20 million.
Staples Centerthe home arena for the Clippers and the L.A. Lakersalso released a statement this week: “We are deeply troubled by these disturbing remarks which go against everything we believe in as an organization. We support the players, the coaches, the rest of the team and their fans and we are committed to providing a safe, secure and welcoming environment for everyone at [Tuesday] night’s NBA playoff game.”
“Corporations have a choice. They can either continue aligning with Donald Sterling, or stand up and end their association with Sterling and his racist, dehumanizing language and actions,” said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorofChange.org, an online civil-rights group. Robinson said its members “will continue to raise their voices, and hold those that continue associating with Sterling accountable.”
Donald Sterling has since been banned for life by the NBA. Only time will tell if sponsors will start realigning themselves with the Clippers.