On April 29, the NBA banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life following the revelation of a series of illegally-recorded tapes that revealed him as prone to racist statements, statements he later said he regretted making. Sterling never expressed regret to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver initially, though, nor the players on his team or the 450-odd players in the NBA; and bylaws within the constitution that Sterling himself repeatedly signed off on allowed for both the league to ban the longtime Clippers owner, and also force the sale of his team (situated in a private league that nobody has a “right” to join).
Sterling has pathetically hemmed and hawed in the weeks since. The league’s players? They were ready to make a quick, initial statement, as first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears and later confirmed by Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry. Had Silver not responded with an impactful response on April 29, the night of three playoff contests, Curry’s Warriors and the Clippers would have walked off court just as the opening seconds started ticking off the clock, outcome be damned.
Warriors center Andrew Bogut, who would have tipped center that night had it not been for a cracked rib, discussed as much in an interview with Robert Craddock of Australia’s Courier-Mail:
You revealed that players from both teams planned to stage a dramatic protest after the tip-off. What did they have in mind?
It would have gone down in history as a stance against what was said, and rightfully so. That was the day they (NBA officials) were announcing the punishment, the morning of our game. Our players and their players got together and the plan was if the punishment was not sufficient, when the referee threw the ball up nobody would jump, the ball would hit the ground and both sides would head to the locker room and not play. It would have been very interesting.
It would have been an epic moment, wouldn’t it?
It would have gone down as one of the most significant protests in sporting history, especially in this day an age because you don’t see that sort of stuff. Racism is not an issue and you just don’t see the type of comments that Sterling made.
Let’s not destroy Andrew Bogut for the last sentence, there. Maybe. Kind of.
Racism is an issue. Racism is what tore apart the former Yugoslavia that Bogut’s parents grew up in, and on a far, far, FAR lesser scale, racism is the reason why I had to defend Andrew Bogut’s merits as an eventual NBA stud to (white) radio hosts that deigned to have me on their program in the weeks leading up to Bogut being selected first overall in the 2005 NBA draft. With two, on-air, actually using the phrase “great white stiff” in reference to the 2005 Associated Press Player of the Year, and Wooden Award winner, before he had even been drafted into the NBA. That’s not prejudice, allowing for some exceptions along the way. That’s completely dismissive thinking – that’s racism.
No, sheriffs in southern states aren’t using fire hoses on African-American protesters in 2014, and to a certain extent civil rights have improved since 1964, but racism is still an issue in ways that are far more pervasive (and in many ways, far more significant) than prohibitive poll taxes or an inability to sit at a lunch counter. With that in place, to Andrew’s larger point – yes, for a person like Donald Sterling to be upset that his (initially disputed, because Donald Sterling lies, and now confirmed) mistress would be posing with African-Americans or using her free Clippers tickets to bring African-Americans to games, in an illegally-recorded tape … yeah, you just don’t see that much anymore. Unless you read comment sections or read emails sent to my inbox.
For Bogut to again confirm that both the Warriors and Clippers got together during what could have been – and, in a lot of ways, what was – the most entertaining first-round series in the most entertaining first round in NBA history is pretty significant.
Forget the lost endorsements and sponsorships, or the upcoming both local Los Angeles television deals or national TV contracts to be hammered out, potentially costing Sterling’s current 29 other NBA co-owners millions. Forget for a moment Sterling’s role in basically admitting to doing terrible things to tenants and would-be tenants in settling this country’s largest real estate discrimination lawsuit without one peep of legal defense, and forget the fact that his stupid – patriarchal, misogynistic (listen to the way he talks to women) and racist – comments were illegally recorded.
For the first time in six weeks, let’s talk about this on basketball terms.
The Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors were hours away from letting the ball thud on the floor after the opening tip of a pivotal Game 5. That, the financial impact, and the ramifications from his other various misdeeds – for too long ignored by former NBA Commissioner David Stern – are enough to for the league’s owners to vote for Sterling’s ouster.
Thankfully, that ouster will eventually come with legal ease, and not just legalese.
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