The “firestorm” that has followed the racist comments allegedly made by LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling—if you keep it in historical perspective—has to this point been equivalent to no more than a pack of matches lighting on fire.
LeBron James called the comments on an audio recording of a man identified as Sterling “appalling” and said “there’s no room for Donald Sterling in the NBA.” He also said he would contemplate not suiting up for the playoffs if he was a member of The Clips (Easy for him to say). Magic Johnson was obviously miffed and even the race-neutral Michael Jordan spoke out against Sterling’s TMZ-exposed conversation with his side chick, imploring her to stop bringing black people to his team’s games.
In response, the Clippers and Golden State Warriors wore black socks and wristbands on their lefts arms in protest. As the Clippers players took the court before Sunday's game, they all tossed their warm-up jackets with the Clippers name on the front to midcourt and then warmed up with their shooting shirts inside out. Veterans Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford convinced their teammates to do the protest before they ran onto the floor for pregame warm-ups, sources said.
Sterling did not attend the game, but his wife Rochelle sat across from the bench wearing black. She was quoted as saying, “she is not a racist,” and doesn’t support any of the comments that were made on the recording. She wouldn’t, however, confirm that the person on the tape was her husband and left the possibility open that the audio was doctored. Looks like they are setting up Sterling’s defense. His wife may be bitter and scorned because of his philandering ways and overall prickish personality, but best believe she’s going to help protect the kingdom and she definitely is not going to let some marriage-wrecker also bring her husband down.
However, lawsuits, kinky lifestyles, adultery and siding with any of the leeches and morally-twisted participants in this situation are secondary to the bigger issue. Let’s not taint what could be a historical moment with the reality show BS that Sterling and everyone involved in this mess has exhibited.
There are a ton of pissed off black folk who would love to see every NBA player refuse to play until action is taken by new NBA commissioner Adam Silver against Sterling. While they spared Silver the burden of having to handle that potential disaster, now the spotlight moves to Silver's handling of this messy drama.
The players asked for swift justice. Will he give the people what they want? Or will he appease Sterling and some other rich owner friends? None of them have publicly come out and denounced the comments yet. Apparently some owners are waiting for completion of the investigation and a confirmation that the dinosaur on the tape is actually Sterling.
The fact that Sterling is staying so quiet is incriminating enough. If that audio was doctored then I believe he would have come out ferociously against its validity. This so-called NBA investigation has bought Sterling’s damage control committee some time to figure out how to once again grease some palms, spin it and make this go away. On the other hand, Silver may be getting all of his ducks in a row and accumulating information on Sterling’s past discrepancies and acts of discrimination. So like a Fed case, when the hammer drops it’s a dead hit.
Kudos to NBA players for taking some kind of stance, and unfortunately the drama-filled weekend obviously affected a Clippers team who was on the road and trying to take a commanding 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series against the Warriors. Steph Curry was flossing his serious airmail swag and CP3 and company never really took flight. Rivers said the Clippers tried to keep it business as usual, but admitted the Sterling controversy had become a distraction.
“You know, from a coaching standpoint, you're concerned," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "They've been pulled in a million directions over the last 24 hours...so that's a fact."
Golden State jumped out to a 66-48 halftime lead and cruised to a 118-97 win to tie the series at 2-2. The series returns to Staples Center on Tuesday for what is sure to be a media-crazed, fan-frenzied game. The posters and banners in support of the Clippers and against Sterling will flood the arena, unless of course, Sterling bans fans from bringing banners into the game.
Reportedly, Clippers players discussed the possibility of boycotting Game 4 in a team meeting Saturday after the alleged comments were made public, but opted to play. The players haven't commented much on the controversy, allowing coach Doc Rivers to be their mouthpiece. Some players did take to twitter to express their displeasure, which is one of the most passive aggressive forms of communication, and often gets immediate reaction with unsustainable momentum or effect because of the rapid-fire nature of the social networking medium.
As fellow TSL All-Star Rob Parker noted in his column, a straight boycott would be the gangster move. A Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, John Carlos type of power move, but I’m not sure these modern-day, millionaire athletes want to risk their checks on making Sterling’s life hell.
The Clippers players are contemplating making a bigger statement during Game 5 of the series against the Warriors on Tuesday in Los Angeles, a source told Yahoo Sports. The source said the players needed more time to decide what they wanted to do and would prefer a stronger statement on their home floor.
Silver was at Sunday's game and expected to meet with Sacramento mayor and ex-NBA player Kevin Johnson, who is representing the National Basketball Player's Association. On Saturday, Silver said the NBA hoped to complete its investigation of the alleged comments by Tuesday. He would not specify any possible sanctions or punishment.
When interviewed on TV, before the Clippers game, Johnson reiterated that the players are outraged and they want Silver to respond with quick and extreme justice. The players have also made it clear that they want to be a part of the process of deciding Sterling’s fate.
This situation will get more interesting as the days wear on. As more information surfaces about this situation, which has taken us in many different directions since TMZ first dropped the shocking audio.
To actually shut down the playoffs would have been the strongest and most impactful move, but money still makes the world go round, and both Rivers and Warriors coach Mark Jackson publicly said that they think the best way to approach the situation is to play. TNT’s Charles Barkley agreed and felt that the “players didn’t do anything wrong,” so why should they have to waste all of their hard work and efforts because “Sterling is a jerk?”
It makes some sense, but as his partner Kenny Smith said, “Sometimes there are social issues bigger than basketball.”
Sterling's record of radical red-necking and race-wrecking includes two lawsuits (one from the federal government) alleging racially discriminatory rental practices at his real estate properties. He settled both for millions. Then there was the lawsuit from long-term Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor accusing Sterling of racial and age discrimination; Baylor lost his case in a 2011 jury trial. Another accusation of racist rants by veteran college basketball coach Rollie Massimino, dates back to the 1980’s and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s up to Silver, the players and the other owners to make Sterling go away. Talk is cheap. Some fans feel that a player tweeting or verbally bashing intolerance is good enough. It’s not.
The NBA has to stand tall as a unified team on this one, and Commissioner Silver is running the point. Will he lose the ball out of bounds off? Or will he make a profound statement in the execution of his first major executive decision, saying that racism, discrimination either social, political, financial or otherwise, won’t be tolerated in the NBA?
Silver doesn’t have to be a pioneer. There's been a precedent already set in pro sports for forcing a racist owner to relinquish control of the team. Marge Schott, one-time owner of baseball's Cincinnati Reds, had a long history of racist and anti-Semitic remarks and fostering a horrible work environment. Baseball finally suspended her as the team's principal owner, but she retained a financial interest.
Sterling is going to get his cash either way. The only way to hit him in the pockets is to refuse to play for him. And if the players don’t want to wait for the wheels of justice to slowly grind out a resolution in this matter, I say nobody should play. Put it all on the new commish.