Matt Barnes on Donald Sterling's Racism: 'He Was Just Dumb Enough to Get Caught'

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2020

Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes plays against the San Antonio Spurs during Game 2 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Los Angeles, Thursday, April 23, 2015. The Spurs won 111-107 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Chris Carlson/Associated Press

The audio of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling saying racist statements may have rocked the NBA, but it did not shock Matt Barnes

"I’ve had enough racist events in my life to understand that racism is real and alive, so the stuff with Sterling didn’t surprise me," Barnes, who was playing for the Clippers at the time, told Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated. "He was just dumb enough to get caught, but he wasn’t the only one thinking that way at the time or still thinking that way now."

A recording of Sterling talking to his mistress, V. Stiviano, leaked to the media in April 2014, which featured him telling her to not "bring black people to [Clippers] games." He also insulted Lakers legend Magic Johnson and told Stiviano to not post any pictures of herself with minorities.

A new Quibi documentary, Blackballed, is set to delve into the fallout from the scandal. The NBA permanently banned Sterling and forced the sale of the Clippers, which went to Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion. Uproar over Sterling's comments was so great players were threatening to sit out of playoff games if then-newly appointed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did not take action.

"We didn’t stand with Donald, we never played for him to begin with," Barnes said. "He just happened to be the owner of the team that put us all together. That was a crazy, uncertain time for us as players, and we were glad that [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver acted as swiftly as he did."

Accusations of racism followed Sterling throughout his tenure as Clippers owner. In 2003, Sterling was the subject of a lawsuit by the Housing Rights Center of Los Angeles that claimed he refused to rent to blacks and Mexicans. The U.S. Department of Justice sued Sterling in 2006 on similar claims. Both suits resulted in Sterling paying millions of dollars in damages.

Several former players also accused him of harassing them and making uncomfortable, racially charged comments. He heckled former Clippers guard Baron Davis, and Blake Griffin revealed several awkward interactions with Sterling in 2014. 

Sterling was also the subject of two sexual harassment lawsuits, one of which was settled and another he won in civil court. 

The 86-year-old has essentially disappeared from public life after being banned by the NBA.