For most of the tenure of Donald Sterling’s ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers his team has played second-fiddle to the Los Angeles Lakers. Calling his teams ‘second-fiddle’ is being nice because the Clippers have pretty much been the laughing stock of the NBA for generations.
With a championship coach and an amazing team now assembled, Sterling seems to have finally put into place a team that can actually win a title. The effect has been amplified by the recent demise of the Lakers who share the same building and that’s about it.
Sterling’s world has suddenly come crashing down. His girlfriend, who is black and Mexican, allegedly recorded a conversation with him that was filled with racist remarks and overtones. The tabloid website TMZ is the one who released the tape. Sterling not only makes generalities but he also mentions Magic Johnson whom his girlfriend apparently had been photographed.
Sterling lectured her on why she shouldn’t post such things on Instagram and used far more inappropriate language than I will here. The question that has been asked repeatedly since this story broke is what will the team do?
The Clippers’ team is coached by an African-American in Doc Rivers and has a roster that includes all African-American players with but one exception. There has been talk that the team could choose to not play in game four of their series with Golden State. After all, who would want to take the court and make money for a money who speaks of you this way?
LeBron James had very harsh words for Sterling saying “There’s no room for Donald Sterling in our league.” James also went further by saying he would actually sit out if his owner had said those things. I’ve always believed that players rise above this type of stuff especially in the playoffs. The goal is and always has been to win the championship and I believe that’s what the coaches and players will do.
With that said, would it surprise me if they chose not to play their next game or perhaps when the team returns home for game five? No, it wouldn’t simply because I understand how these men feel.
Ironically, Sterling was scheduled to receive an award from the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP next month. To me that was surprising in and of itself because Sterling hasn’t exactly been known as someone to be associated with the organization. Let’s not forget that it wasn’t long ago that Sterling beat a court case brought against him by former employee and NBA great Elgin Baylor.
Baylor claimed age discrimination and harassment during the 22 years he worked for Sterling. He commented yesterday “Myself and other people of color were subjected to this mentality for over 20 years,” Baylor told ESPN. “I both witnessed and experienced it. What he said speaks for itself.”
It was not only players and other NBA personnel commenting yesterday because as usual Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson both took advantage of the opportunity to get some attention. Sharpton’s group may protest outside of Staples’ Center prior to game five. It angers me that these men always wait for something like this to come up when there are thousands of examples of racism of all kinds that happen each and every day.
The fact that Sterling’s comments have been politicized outside of the NBA is not surprising and not undeserved, but I can’t help but wonder why more attention hasn’t been called to this man in the past. With so many essentially saying “I’m not surprised because…” I can’t help but lay some blame on the NBA and their owners for allowing this guy to continue to exist in the league.
New Commissioner Adam Silver has his first real issue to deal with so let’s see how he handles it and more importantly, how the Clippers handle it.