6 Clippers sponsors jump ship following alleged racist comments

Monday, April 28, 2014 - 1:08pm

The sponsor backlash against Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald Sterling has begun.

A half-dozen sponsors said Monday they were dropping or suspending sponsorships with the team following allegations of racist comments by team owner Donald Sterling.

The first to act was CarMax, an online marketplace for buying cars.

"CarMax finds the statements attributed to the Clippers' owner completely unacceptable," CarMax said in a statement. "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, fans and community, these statements necessitate that CarMax end its sponsorship."

Virgin America, in a statement, said: "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."

Another sponsor, insurer State Farm, called Sterling's reported comments "offensive."

"While those involved sort out the facts, we will be taking a pause in our relationship with the organization," State Farm said. "We are monitoring the situation and we'll continually assess our options."

State Farm also said that it has "a great relationship" with the Clippers' star point guard Chris Paul and will continue with the TV advertising campaign featuring him.

Energy drink Red Bull also pulled the plug on its sponsorship efforts.

"We trust and respect the NBA's process to formally investigate the matter, and in the interim, are suspending all team-related marketing activities," said the company. But it will continue its relationship with another Clippers star, forward Blake Griffin.

Korean automaker Kia also suspended its marketing activities with the team.

"The comments allegedly made by Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, are offensive and reprehensible, and they are inconsistent with our views and values," said the company.

Amtrak said its deal with the Clippers only ran through the end of the regular season, which concluded April 16.

"As with any sponsorship advertising, some assets remain in the market - to that end we are diligently working to remove all sponsorship assets," said the government-owned railroad. It said it would monitor the situation as it looks to 2014-15 sponsorship decisions.

The flurry of announcements comes several days after a report by TMZ said Sterling made derogatory statements about African-Americans in a phone conversation with his girlfriend V. Stiviano, after she posted a photo of herself with NBA veteran Magic Johnson.

The corporate backlash echoes last year's Paul Deen scandal, when sponsors dropped the Southern cuisine superstar after she admitted, during court testimony, to having once used a racist slur. But with the help of a strong fan base and a new investor, she launched a new restaurant.

In a similar scandal, "Duck Dynasty," TV star Phil Robertson made racist and homophobic comments in an interview with GQ Magazine that also set off a firestorm. But the duck hunting magnate managed to pull through it unscathed.

A&E temporarily suspended him from the reality TV show but brought him back amid fan backlash. The scandal did not interfere with his release of a line of guns through Mossberg.

--CNNMoney's Chris Isidore contributed to this report.

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