The most recent revelation about Donald Sterling has left me feeling the slightest bit relieved—relieved because the Clippers owner is finally being exposed as the despicable, racist businessman that he is.
In an audio recording of a phone call made by his mistress, Sterling is heard telling her not to appear in public with black people. If you haven’t been paying close attention, you might have missed similar stories of inflammatory behavior that have followed the 80-year-old mogul through the years. He has been accused of intentionally running his franchise “like a Southern plantation,” according to former general manager Elgin Baylor, and in 2009 paid several million dollars to settle a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department that accused him of forcing people of color and families with children out of buildings he owned. To that extent, this conversation needed to happen, because he should not have an NBA franchise anymore.
But it won’t be that easy. The league can’t strip Sterling of his ownership, and Sterling, who bought the team in 1981, probably won’t exit willingly. The NBA has banned him from the game for life and fined him $2.5 million, but still, he’s left a wound in the organization.
I feel sorry for the team. They had a lot of momentum going into the playoffs, and now a masterpiece has turned into a mess. Players held a team meeting after hearing the news this past weekend and decided to drop their warm-up gear at mid-court before Sunday’s game-four loss to the Golden State Warriors. They also wore their red jerseys inside out. No logo. Just red.
It wasn’t loud, it wasn’t demonstrative. But it sent the message, and I think it’s the right one. The Clippers have every right to protest—hell, even to boycott. I’m glad they didn’t, though, because now their performance comes from a place of strength and perseverance. They’re pissed, but they’re focused.
At the moment, I wouldn’t spend a dime on a Clippers ticket, but I’m also conflicted, because the players don’t deserve to be punished. They’re already suffering the brunt of Sterling’s words, professionally and, one would assume, personally. Of all the people Clippers point guard Chris Paul thought he would have to take on this season, the owner of the team he plays for probably wasn’t one of them.
The players need all the support they can get. Though the Pistons are my team, I’ll be pulling for the guys in red tonight during game five against the Golden State Warriors. They deserve to salvage something from this wreckage. Fans will stay home or go to the game, that’s ultimately their choice. It’s one freedom Donald Sterling thankfully can’t exercise anymore.