It is not news that Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is racist. It becomes news, however, when Sterling saying ridiculously racist things gets leaked to TMZ, which released a tape that claims to be the Clippers owner arguing with his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, about bringing black people to games with her and posing for pictures with other minorities on Instagram.
Again, Donald Sterling being a racist is not news. Donald Sterling being this blatantly racist, on tape, is.
It would also be news if the NBA acted on this scandal, forcing Sterling to sell the team in an effort to finally disassociate the league from his horrendous set of beliefs.
It would certainly be news if, failing the NBA's iron fist coming down on Sterling once and for all, everyone working for him just up and quit.
What if everyone just went ahead and quit the Clippers because they don't want to be associated with a man who would say such unbelievably appalling things? Would that get the point across for the NBA?
Is that too extreme? Let's rehash some highlights from the tape for a moment, to never forget just how intolerant it is. From TMZ:
It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?
You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that ... and not to bring them to my games.
There is nine minutes of that kind of thinking.
It's not even so much that the man on the tape sounds racist—that much is a given—or the utter hilariousness of the fact that he's reportedly having that conversation with his girlfriend, who is part black and part Mexican.
The man on that tape sounds like an absolute, bona fide crazyperson—one word—and the NBA came out with a brief statement that the league is in the process of verifying that crazyperson is one of its 30 team owners.
But then what? Then what will commissioner Adam Silver and the other 29 ownership groups do?
The league has already stated it finds the comments "disturbing and offensive," but what will come next?
Can Sterling be removed from ownership because of something he said on a tape that—if recorded in the state of California—was illegally created if done so without his consent?
Can the NBA punish an owner who has been accused countless times of being a racist for being racist…again? Or, perhaps better stated in the year 2014, for still being a racist?
Let's not ignore the fact that these comments are extraordinarily delusional when taking into account the percentage of his players—of all players in the NBA—who are black, and the significance of the NBA's presence in traditionally black communities.
(And please let's not ignore the fact that Sterling is upset his girlfriend took a photo with Magic Johnson, of all people. If every black person in the greater Los Angeles area wasn't already a Lakers fan, they will be now.)
Let's not ignore the fact that Sterling's most prominent player, Chris Paul, is also the president of the NBA Players Association.
Let's not ignore the fact that Sterling's head coach, Doc Rivers, is also the team's senior vice president of basketball operations.
If the league can't do anything about Sterling, maybe they can?
Maybe they should.
Paul has put out a statement through the NBPA, calling this a "serious issue" and trusting it in the hands of Kevin Johnson, so Paul can rightly focus on the playoffs. Johnson's adjoined statement said, in part:
The reported comments made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling are reprehensible and unacceptable. The National Basketball Players Association must and will play a very active role in determining how this issue is addressed. There needs to be an immediate investigation and if the reports are true, there needs to be strong and swift action taken.
Rivers wanted to keep his post-practice comments to basketball, but did address the idea of a potential immediate boycott.
It's a tough thing to suggest that someone—or multiple someones, who are black—take a stand against his boss for something racist like this. If my boss said something like this about Jewish people, I sure as heck wouldn't want to work for him ever again.
But I'm not suggesting Rivers, Paul and the rest of the Clippers employees—black, white or otherwise—get up and leave today. The Clippers are in the middle of a postseason run, with a good chance at getting deep into the NBA playoffs.
Quitting now only serves to hurt the fans who have spent years toiling through horrible season after horrible season under Sterling's penny-pinching stewardship. He has been a terrible owner for many more reasons than being a racist, and it would be a shame if the stand those under his employ decided to take ruined what could be an otherwise amazing season for the diehard fans.
I'm also not going to suggest the fans boycott the remainder of the Clippers games this season either. Why would that be fair, after they gave Sterling and his team all that money this season, to quit on the team right when the payoff gets the biggest?
No, the Clippers should play their hearts out for each other and for the fans, and hope the season ends with a parade before packing up their lockers, offices and concession counters, never to go back there ever again.
Quit. Leave the stadium. Leave the team. Leave the freaking league if that's the only way they can get out of their contracts.
Do anything they can to never associate with a man like Sterling ever again.
That's what they can do if they really want to make a statement.
If the NBA and its other owners can't—read: won't—jettison Sterling after this, they shouldn't be able to make those working for him stick around either.
What if Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Darren Collison and the rest of the Clippers players just up and left, refusing to play for Sterling again?
Could the league sue the players for breach of contract? Could Sterling? What can anyone do if the players just all refused to return after this season? What if all 14 players and Rivers and his entire staff decided to collectively retire from the sport rather than remain under contract with Sterling?
What would the NBA do then?
Paul has the power to organize that kind of player revolt, too. And after this season is over, he should do exactly that.
If the league won't deal with Sterling once and for all, make a statement and let the NBA call your collective bluff.
There is no way the league would let all that talent just walk away from the game in an effort to protect an owner like Sterling. There is no way any other player would sign with Sterling to replace those who left—not if Paul were leading the charge. Sterling might still own the team, but he would have no team to own.
Some people think this isn't the players' fight, nor should it be Rivers and the coaches who make a stand against the owner. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, one of the most respected NBA voices on the planet today, thinks we should be putting pressure on the owners and the league, not the players and coaches, to take this stand against Sterling. From Yahoo:
This isn't about Chris Paul, the president of the National Basketball Players Association. This isn't about Doc Rivers, the president and coach of the Clippers. It isn't on them to make declarations and stage protests now. The NBA chooses its owners, and it makes its rules. It holds an iron fist of executives, coaches and players, and now it needs to do its job to begin the process of removing him as an owner.
The fact is, Woj is right. It's not about Paul or Rivers or anyone else but Sterling. And the NBA should do what it can to remove Sterling from their elite group of owners. It's just easier said than done, especially with the manner in which this tape has come out.
Twenty seconds into the tape obtained by TMZ, the man on the recording says, "The issue is we don't have to broadcast everything," to which the woman replies, "I'm not broadcasting anything."
This was repeated twice. Now, I have no earthly idea how TMZ obtained this recording, nor do I know if it was Sterling's girlfriend who made the tape in the first place. But someone did, and if it was her, there's a whole mess of legal issues that I am certain the NBA ownership group wants no part of, especially if this becomes the catalyst for Sterling's ouster.
What the NBA owners should do and what the NBA owners can legally do are two very different things.
That said, the pressure should be put on the owners to do something, and it shouldn’t just come from the fans. Sure, it's easy to suggest the fans boycott the games next season, but much like the run in the playoffs this year, why should the fans who love those players and love good basketball have to suffer because Sterling is the owner?
If fans boycotted every team that had a racist owner, there would have been decades of professional baseball games in many cities around this country with no fans showing up at all. Now, 2014 is different than 1940—if not to Sterling, then surely to the rest of us—but the logic remains the same.
It's not fair for this to be the fight of the fans, but if the players and coaches got involved too, real change could happen. It would have to happen.
The other NBA owners should be on notice: You have until the Clippers either get knocked out of the playoffs or until they win the title to make a move on Sterling.
After that, the move should come from those who can make the loudest statement.
A barren arena, vacant locker room and empty bench would do just that. After all, that's what Sterling deserves.
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