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Clippers' Doc Rivers Talks Donald Sterling Scandal Ahead of 'Blackballed' Doc

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMay 14, 2020

Los Angeles Clippers' Doc Rivers coaches during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Six years after the Donald Sterling scandal rocked the NBA and led to the Los Angeles Clippers being sold, head coach Doc Rivers has reflected on what it was like to be around the situation in 2014. 

Speaking on the Quibi documentary Blackballed—premiering May 18—Rivers explained he wanted to discuss the Sterling scandal now because "we still need to have a talk, or conversation about racial injustice, about social injustice, and it's a conversation that I still think that we're still very uncomfortable with."

In April 2014, TMZ Sports and Deadspin obtained audio recordings of Sterling making racist comments to his then-girlfriend, V. Stiviano.

The Clippers were playing the Golden State Warriors in a playoff series when the audio became public. ESPN's Ramona Shelburne told Sports Illustrated in 2019 that players from both teams strongly considered boycotting Game 4 of their series as a result of Sterling's comments.

Los Angeles players wound up staging a silent protest by taking off its warm-up shirts and leaving them on the floor of the court. They also wore shooting shirts inside-out before the game to cover the Clippers logo and wore black armbands and socks. 

Rivers, who was in his first season as Clippers head coach at the time, discussed the thought process that went into the silent protest: 

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"I thought the smartest thing we did, we decided to have one voice. I was so concerned about our players becoming the story, and my focus was trying to keep the focus on Donald Sterling. He was the racist, like, we didn't need to explain ourselves, we wanted Donald Sterling to explain himself.

"The other big thing, the untold story is, on the day of the game, I get a call that Donald Sterling was actually coming to the game, so I had to deal with that. If you ever watch that, the team's out on the floor, I'm still in the locker room. I think I walk out like five seconds before the national anthem, I'm literally on the phone with Andy Roeser, telling him Donald Sterling cannot come to the game. Just think about that. I'm a coach, and I'm telling the owner he cannot come to a game."

NBA commissioner Adam Silver gave Sterling a lifetime ban, fined him $2.5 million and said he would attempt to force Sterling to sell the Clippers. 

Shelly Sterling, Donald's wife, agreed to sell the franchise to Steve Ballmer in May 2014 after her husband was deemed mentally unfit. The NBA Board of Governors officially approved the deal three months later. 

Sterling originally bought the Clippers in 1981. He relocated the franchise from San Diego to Los Angeles prior to the 1984-85 season. 

Rivers has remained head coach of the Clippers since Ballmer took over and has gone 351-205 in seven seasons with the franchise. 

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