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Kia, Mercedes pull sponsorship from NBA team after owner’s racist rant

Automotive and lifestyle brands pull sponsorship deals to distance themselves from NBA team owner’s racist comments

Kia Motors has suspended all sponsorship to the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team after their owner, Donald Sterling, was recorded making racist comments to his girlfriend. All Kia/Clippers advertising and sponsorship activity has been affected, with the exception of the Optima television adverts, which feature NBA star and Clipper forward, Blake Griffin (pictured below). Kia has yet to confirm whether these too will also be reviewed. 

Kia Motors suspend sponsorship of NBA team, LA Clippers
Kia Motors suspend sponsorship of NBA team, LA Clippers

As the scandal continues to grow, a raft of other sponsors, such as Mercedes Benz, State Farm motor insurance, Virgin America, Yokohama tires and Red Bull have also pulled their support. The exact value of the financial damage to the team is not yet known, but will easily run into the tens of millions.

Sterling, who lost his son to an overdose at the start of February this year, hasn’t responded publicly to the allegations, but has been given a lifetime ban by NBA Chief, Adam Silver. Reports suggest he may be forced to sell The Clippers.

A number of entrepreneurs and celebrities have come forward condemning the remarks made by Sterling. Some have also offered to put in a bid to buy the team. Kia Motors has yet to confirm whether it would lift the suspension, should the team come under new ownership.

Meanwhile, online auto site CarMax has completely severed ties, saying “[Sterlings’s] views directly conflict with CarMax’s culture of respect for all individuals.” This ends a nine-year partnership.

Sterling’s controversial audio recording can be found here


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