Alleged racism by NBA team owner "incredibly offensive": Obama

US President Barack Obama said Sunday that comments reportedly made by the owner of a U.S. pro basketball team are ``incredibly offensive racist statements,'' before casting them as part of a continuing legacy of slavery and segregation that Americans must confront.

"When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything, you just let them talk,'' Obama said when asked to respond to the reported comments from Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald Sterling.

Obama's description of the controversy as part of a larger historical context is the latest example of his continuing willingness to expound on matters of race in his second term.

After avoiding much mention of race relations during his campaign to become the first black president and in his first term, the president last summer offered a personal reflection in response to the shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin.

And now Obama has spoken out against an audio recording of a man identified as Sterling telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to games.

The firestorm over Sterling's comments has quickly engulfed the National Basketball Association.

Obama cast the comments through a broader prism of racism in America, adding that "we constantly have to be on guard on racial attitudes that divide us rather than embracing our diversity as a strength.''

The NBA is trying to determine if it's really Sterling's voice in the recording.

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