Over the weekend a tape was leaked allegedly containing a conversation between the Donald Sterling, a wealthy white man who owns the Los Angeles Clippers basketball organisation, and his girlfriend that contained remarks that people with ears recognised as being fundamentally racist. The Internet reacted with appropriate disgust, and the basketball industry was extremely quick to condemn the man and his silly words. Now even the players on his own team have taken a stand against him.
Among other repugnant things, Sterling remarked to his girlfriend, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people,” and “But why publicize it on the Instagram and why bring it to my games?” Whilst the rest of the NBA (easily one of the most ethnically diverse sporting organisations in the world) very quickly, and publicly, asserted that this conduct has no place in the sport, it backed the Clippers roster into an interesting corner, due to the focus of their ongoing playoff series against the Golden State Warriors demanding priority attention. But that doesn’t render them incapable of response.
Before the beginning of game 4 of the series, staged at the Warriors home Oracle Arena in Oakland, the Clippers roster removed their tracksuit tops and placed them in a heap in the middle of the court floor, revealing warm-up t-shirts that had all been turned inside out to hide the “Clippers” name and logo. The team wore the tops during warm-up shootarounds, and when sitting on the bench. In addition, the team chose to wear their blue alternate strips during the game, all of which simply state “Los Angeles” on the front, as opposed to their usual “Clippers” branded attire.
President Barack Obama even weighed in on the issue, stating in very blunt terms, “The United States continues to wrestle with legacy of race and slavery and segregation. We’ve made enormous strides, but you’re going to continue to see this percolate up. We have to continue denouncing it and teach our children differently.” “I don’t think I have to interpret those statements for you. They kind of speak for themselves. When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t have to do anything, you just let them talk.”
The Clippers protests represented a very astute and unified front against the comments; rejecting the brand that Sterling owns, whilst keeping focus on the task at hand: playoff basketball.
The Clippers lost game 4 of the series 118 – 97, with the best of seven series against the Warriors now tied at 2-2.
Photo: Thearon W. Henderson via Getty Images.