Bloomington-Based State Farm Pulls Clippers Sponsorship

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State Farm Insurance Co. is pulling its sponsorship of the Los Angeles Clippers following racist comments that have been attributed to the team's owner.

In a statement Monday, the Bloomington, Ill.-based insurer says the remarks attributed to Donald Sterling "are offensive." The company says it is "taking a pause" in its relationship with the organization "while those involved sort out the facts."

Sterling is alleged to have made the comments in a recorded conversation with a woman. Parts of that conversation were released by TMZ and Deadspin, prompting a national outcry.

State Farm says that for now it will continue to run its "Born to Assist" ad campaign, which features Clippers player Chris Paul.

Used car dealership chain CarMax and airline Virgin America also say they're ending their team sponsorships.

Companies sponsor teams to capitalize on the feel-good nature of sports, but the incident highlights the fact that sponsorships carry a risk when the news turns negative.

Allen Adamson, managing director of research firm Landor Associates, said there's little benefit for brands to stick with the company.

"There's some benefit in moving quickly," he said "You can always renew your sponsorship later, but the longer you're linking your brand to a brand in trouble, the higher the risk."

NBC News has not been able to authenticate the audio tapes posted on or the extended clips posted by Deadspin.

Clippers president Andy Roeser issued a statement over the weekend saying, "Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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