One day after union vice president Roger Mason Jr. told Showtime's Jim Rome that LeBron James would lead a player boycott if the banned-for-life Donald Sterling remained in place as the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers at the start of the 2014-15 NBA season, just about everybody — from James' Miami Heat teammates and head coach, to Mason, to James himself — cooled down talk of a months-down-the-line walkout spearheaded by the four-time league Most Valuable Player.
Mason signed a one-year veteran's minimum contract with the Heat just before the start of training camp, but never really factored into the rotation plans for the two-time defending NBA champions. He made just 25 appearances before being traded to the Sacramento Kings for what amounted to nothing more than cost savings on the Heat's luxury tax bill. The Kings promptly waived the 33-year-old shooting guard, who didn't catch on anywhere else for the remainder of the season, but has continued to remain active in the National Basketball Players Association.
He joined Rome in his capacity as the NBPA's first vice president, and discussed the prospect of a player boycott of the 2014-15 season if NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's efforts to terminate Sterling's ownership of the Clippers haven't achieved the desired result by then:
"If it's not handled by… the start of next season, I don't see how we're playing basketball," Mason said. "I was just in the locker room with LeBron… At the end of the day, you know we have leaders. We have player reps, we've got executive committee members… Leaders of the teams, they're all saying the same thing, 'If this man is still in place, we ain't playing'."
Rome followed up: "So your guy LeBron, you think he would not play if Sterling were still in there when the [next] season started?"
"I was just in the locker room three or four days ago. LeBron and I talked about it," Mason said. "He ain't playing if Sterling is still an owner."
After being brought up to speed on Mason's remarks prior to Game 5 of Miami's second-round series with the Brooklyn Nets, several people who also spend time in the locker room with James brushed aside the comments, according to Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:
“We haven’t even talked about it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There’s been far too much attention on that ugly situation and not on this incredible competition in the playoffs right now. LeBron’s not thinking about that. We’re not thinking about that right now.” […]
Forward James Jones, the Heat’s player union rep, said he feels no boycott will take place. The players are confident commissioner Adam Silver will meet their needs, which is to remove Sterling.
“However this thing plays out, it will play out the way that we all agree, which is to have Donald Sterling no longer being an owner of an NBA franchise,” Jones said. […]
“We haven’t discussed that as a team and as a group,” forward Udonis Haslem said. “Next year is next year. Right now, we have bigger fish to fry. I think guys will talk about or have that discussion when it’s time for that. We haven’t had that discussion at all.”
Jones was a bit more direct in discussing the matter with Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
“There is no boycott,” Jones told the Daily News. “There isn’t a lot of talk about a boycott. The union wanted to see the league step up and did what they did what we felt was appropriate — which was to remove Donald Sterling. They did that. It’s a process and we know it’s going to take time. But there is total trust abetween the union and the league and commissioner and the owners, knowing that eventually it will all play out the way we agreed — which is Donald Sterling no longer being the owner of an NBA team. We’re all on the same page. The Donald Sterling situation is a league situation. It’s not basketball.” […]
“The league started the steps toward changing. We know that the end game is the same for both of us,” James Jones said. “And we respect and trust the league will get it done when it can. We’re a long way off from a final resolution and all options are still there. But that’s not our focus. We’re talking about next year. We’re living in the moment. It’s just unfortunate that this Sterling [situation] is still a story. When it can get done it will get done."
On Wednesday afternoon, after his remarks had caused something of a stir, Mason walked back his televised remarks via Twitter:
Jim Rome is a good guy and I may not have been clear when I responded to his question, so let me clear it up.— Roger Mason Jr (@MoneyMase) May 14, 2014
Jim asked me about guys playing next season if Sterling remained an owner. I mentioned I spoke to LBJ as I speak to many players.— Roger Mason Jr (@MoneyMase) May 14, 2014
My bad if I was not clear.LBJ never said anything about boycotting.He's a friend and I would never want to imply something he didn't say— Roger Mason Jr (@MoneyMase) May 14, 2014
The bottom line is that our commissioner,team owners,fans, players, and the world all agree that there is no place for racism in our league.— Roger Mason Jr (@MoneyMase) May 14, 2014
Shortly thereafter, James addressed — and brushed aside — the comments, according to Richardson of the Sun Sentinel:
"As players, we see what Adam Silver is doing," James said. "He's moving forward. If he continues, which we believe in Adam Silver will do aggressively on the situation, then as players we have nothing to worry about." [...]
"Roger comes in here, we speak about issues," James said. I believe that issue came up but as a team we never discussed it. Roger is a great guy. I don't have a problem with him at all."
James has been vocal in his opposition to Sterling's continued presence in the NBA since the publication of audio recordings that include Sterling chastising former assistant/alleged girlfriend V. Stiviano for “associating” with minorities, "promoting" said associations by posting pictures she'd taken with black people on her Instagram account, and potentially bringing African Americans to Clippers home games.
James told reporters that there is no place in the NBA for Sterling and that NBA players will not accept continued ownership of the Clippers by any member of the Sterling family, including Donald Sterling's estranged wife, Rochelle "Shelly" Sterling, who has said she plans to fight to maintain her 50 percent ownership stake in the club. James and his Heat teammates also offered a sign of solidarity with Clippers players, mirroring a silent protest previously mounted by the Clips by wearing their warm-ups inside-out and dropping their shooting shirts at half-court before Game 4 of their opening-round series against the Charlotte Bobcats.
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