President Barack Obama's criticism of alleged racist remarks by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has brought the race issue back into the political arena at the highest level.
Obama said Sterling's alleged comments were "incredibly offensive racist statements," and the president called on Americans to oppose such attitudes.
It was the latest example of Obama, the first African-American president of the United States, addressing the race issue in increasingly blunt terms.
Obama said, "The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation. That's still there – the vestiges of discrimination. We've made enormous strides but you're going to continue to see this percolate up every so often.
“And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why some statements like this stand out so much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves."
Obama added: "When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything. You just let them talk. That's what happened here."
Obama made his comments at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Sunday when he was asked about the Sterling furor. Obama is currently touring the Asia-Pacific region.
Obama's most elaborate discussion of racial problems in recent years came in July 2013 when he reacted to the not-guilty verdict in the trial of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. Obama said, "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago."
Sterling, the owner of the Clippers franchise in the National Basketball Association, allegedly made the racist remarks in an April 9 argument with V. Stiviano, described in the media as his "girlfriend." The comments were recorded and obtained by the celebrity website TMZ, which posted the recording online. The male voice on the recording complained that Stiviano was attending Clippers games with African-Americans and then posting photos on Instagram.
At one point, the man says, "In your lousy f--king Instagrams, you don't have to have yourself with – walking with black people." He also complains specifically about Stiviano attending Clippers games with former NBA star Magic Johnson.
"I've known [Johnson] well and he should be admired. … I'm just saying that it's too bad you can't admire him privately. Admire him, bring him here, feed him, f--k him, but don't put [Johnson] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don't bring him to my games."
The NBA is investigating the incident, which has drawn condemnations of Sterling from basketball stars such as Miami Heat forward LeBron James and former NBA players Johnson, Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal.