NEW YORK- National Basketball Association officials will try to calm public outrage over racist comments attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who observers said could face a long suspension from the game.

The league moved quickly to address the scandal, which broke over the weekend when Website TMZ.com published a 10-minute recording in which a voice said to be Sterling's criticized a friend for associating with "black people."

The news prompted a wave of outrage from athletes, coaches and fans of the NBA, which was a leader in racial integration in U.S. sports and where most of the players are black. One after another, team sponsors such as auto dealer CarMax Inc, Virgin America, State Farm, Kia Motors America, music mogul P. Diddy's water brand, AQUAHydrate, Red Bull and Yokohama Tire all announced they were stepping back from the team.

Some advertisers have asked to move their commercials out of the national broadcast of Clippers playoff game against the Golden State Warriors by TNT, owned by Time Warner Inc, and the local airing on a sports channel owned by 21st Century Fox, according to sources familiar with the matter.

President Barack Obama, the first U.S. black president and a basketball fan, called the comments attributed to Sterling "incredibly offensive racist statements," and U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner described them as "reprehensible."

Another observer said it was tricky to predict what the NBA will do, with the owners, some of whom invested hundreds of millions of dollars to buy their franchises, wary of taking any steps that could jeopardize their future rights.