By now you have probably at least heard peripheral noise about the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, getting caught on camera saying some ridiculously racist things about black people, including his own players, to his coincidentally very not-white mistress.
You can enjoy the freshly-released extended copy of the diatribe, which Sterling’s camp is claiming isn’t legitimate (citing the fact that said mistress is involved in a lawsuit with Sterling) in its entirety over at Deadspin, but let’s not dwell on the specifics of hate-mongering.
Here’s what you need to know about Donald Sterling:
– Starting in 1961, Sterling was a divorce and personal injury attorney. Having no chance at working for most prestigious law firms, he built an independent practice and has said that he tried 10,000 cases. He then turned his sights to real estate and made his fortune there.
– He bought the Clippers in 1981 for $12.5 million (the team is now valued at $575 million by Forbes).
– However, Bill Simmons has basically proved why he’s actually a financial liability for his own organization.
– Ehran Khan at Bleacher Report put together an entire presentation on his all-time worst moves as an NBA owner.
– “Since 1981, when he bought the team, Sterling’s Clippers have compiled not merely the worst winning percentage in the NBA, but the worst winning percentage in all four major American sports, and that includes several teams that didn’t even exist when Sterling first graced the Association with his presence.”
– He once testified in great detail about his ongoing relationship with a prostitute and the phrase “sucking me all night long” was used.
– Elgin Baylor, NBA legend and Clippers GM from 1986 to 2008, sued Sterling in February of 2009 in L.A. Superior Court for wrongful termination and discrimination on the basis of age and race (the race part he eventually dropped). In the original lawsuit, Baylor said that Sterling had a ‘vision of a Southern plantation-type structure’ for the Clippers and accused the owner of a ‘pervasive and ongoing racist attitude’ during long-ago contract negotiations with Danny Manning.
– The lawsuit also quoted Sterling as telling Manning’s agent, “I’m offering you a lot of money for a poor black kid.”
– Nick Cannon once did all he could to not call Sterling racist on-air
However now, with 15 minutes of well-exposed proof, he’s finally seeing the public backlash and outrage that should have been there since at least 2006 when Bomani Jones exposed him back in the old ESPN Page 2 days. There has even been a very vocal outcry calling for everyone to stop going to Clippers games and to stop watching them on television, with the hashtag #BoycottClippers becoming increasingly popular on Twitter and Instagram over the past few days.
But those demanding that gut-instinct solution are missing the bigger picture.
The minute you let this man’s remarks affect the team’s routine and mindset any more than it naturally would given the fact that their boss is quite possibly one of the worst people in this country, you’re hurting the people that are affected most by this and for those who are the most invested in this situation.
There’s a reason that both Sacramento Mayor and NBA Player’s Association special assistant Kevin Johnson and newly-appointed NBA commissioner Adam Silver are saying they want to resolve this as quickly as possible.
They understand that while, to quote Magic Johnson, “this is bad for everybody; this is bad for America,” that this is not just bad, but ultimately unfair to the Clippers players and coaches who have been one of the most enjoyable teams in the league to follow this year. Blake Griffin willing his way into becoming a more dynamic player and Chris Paul struggling with the limitations of his own genius, all under the tutelage of the Ubuntu-prophesying Doc Rivers, have been some of the best narratives of the season.
To #Boycott them is to devalue all that.
Yes the advertisers should pull out and they are (even the Village People said “YMCA” couldn’t be played at games anymore), and Adam Silver should use the maximum powers at his disposal to punish this guy (here‘s a great rundown of his options).
But we as fans, we have to tune in, not turn off.
The players did what they had to in terms of showing their outrage and the reversed warmups will now forever live in the history books, but one of the few bright sides to Sunday night’s evisceration at the hands of Steph Curry, Golden State, and their appreciative fans was the realization that when it came to the playoffs, the only thing that mattered were the 48 minutes on the court. Curry’s five 3’s in a row were a thing of beauty not just because the kid’s stroke is something other-worldly, but because they were a constant reminder that he respected his friend Chris Paul enough to not give him the least bit of sympathy.
Because the Clippers didn’t need sympathy. They needed to be reminded that they were there to try to beat the Golden State Warriors. They needed the fans’ boos and the wonderfully smug slams from David Lee.
And God bless them, they gave it everything it feels like they could have, even until the futility in Chris Paul’s 5th foul was only exacerbated by the embarrassment of Turkoglu’s following one. They dug deep only to get a 3 from Harrison Barnes and a block from Stephen Curry(!) to show for it. But that effort deserves to be recognized. And no matter how much you think you care about this scandal and what it means and how it should be handled, they care more.
But they know when to rise above it.
In the middle of that very game, a commercial popped up with Portland Trailblazer star Damian Lillard accidentally offending Chris Webber and Karl Malone (plus a shoe-horned-in Barry Sanders and LT) by bringing up the fact that they never won a ring, a true stigma for professional athletes.
Rings validate not just careers but entire lives, and especially the sacrifices that were made along the way.
A boycott dismisses those sacrifices.
Even if no one attended the Clippers next game — which would never happen — Donald Sterling doesn’t care about that pocket change he’s losing; the real secret is that most people rich enough to own sports teams aren’t living and dying by that team’s day-to-day success. And if he sold the team tomorrow, that’s still a $500 million profit he made.
To show true rebellion is to do what Steph Curry and Golden State’s fans did on Sunday night and remind the world that while we can be outraged, we shouldn’t let the words of one old racist who should have died years ago ruin one of the best playoff series we’ve had in years. Sports is one of the few true things we have left, let’s try and keep it as (relatively) pure as we can.