Shortly after taking the court for Monday's Game 4 against the Charlotte Bobcats, the Miami Heat went en masse to center court at Time Warner Cable Arena, took off their T-shirts and dropped them in a pile, revealing inside-out shooting shirts underneath, covering any team or NBA logo. The collective gesture was intended as a sign of solidarity with the Los Angeles Clippers, who made the same silent protest against the alleged racial comments attributed to their team's owner, Donald Sterling, prior to their playoff game against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.
"An equipment kid quickly picked up the shirts, not realizing the symbolism," Turner Sports sideline reporter Rachel Nichols said during TNT's broadcast. "LeBron quickly told him, 'Hey, put them back.'"
Among NBA players, LeBron James was one of the most vocal and clear critics of the remarks attributed to Sterling after their publication by TMZ on Saturday, emphasizing that the attitudes and prejudices underlying Sterling's alleged statements are not Clippers-specific issues, but rather ones that affect all NBA franchises, players, coaches and employees, and the league as a whole.
“If the reports are true, it’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable in our league," James said prior to the Heat's Game 3 win over the Bobcats on Saturday, according to Joe Goodman of the Miami Herald. "It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, Hispanic, whatever, all across the races [...] Basketball is huge, obviously the playoffs have been unbelievable, and I hate the fact that something like this has to come out when the playoffs have been unbelievable and the game of basketball continues to grow, but there is no room for Donald Sterling in our league. There is no room for him.”
Nichols said the Heat players said they had no quarrel with their own ownership. Along with the San Antonio Spurs' Peter Holt, Heat owner Mickey Arison was among the first owners to issue any comment on Sterling, releasing a statement that "the comments reported by TMZ were offensive, appalling and very sad," according to Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick.
"But as Dwyane Wade said, they wanted to show with that gesture that until the NBA does something about Sterling, all players around the league have an issue," Nichols said.
This is not the first time that Miami's players have made a collective symbolic gesture in a racially charged matter. In March of 2012, 13 members of the Heat took a team photo with their hoods up and eyes down, in conjunction with a mass protest in which people all over the world wore hooded sweatshirts in solidarity with the family of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old high school student who was found dead on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Fla. Martin was reportedly wearing a hooded sweatshirt, with the hood up, at the time of his shooting by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, who claimed Martin was armed; no weapons were found on Martin's person. James and Wade also called for justice for Martin and his family in messages written on their shoes in the aftermath of the shooting, and Wade appeared on the cover of Ebony magazine with his sons, Zaire and Zion, all wearing hoodies behind the headline, "We Are Trayvon."
Other teams competing Monday offered signs of support, too:
Kemba Walker tells me the Bobcats will all be wearing black socks tonight in support of the Clippers players. (As the Blazers, Rockets did)— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) April 28, 2014
Bobcats clarifying "black socks" tonight, that team was to wear black socks anyway but players do stand with Clippers players regardless— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) April 28, 2014
Spurs will also wear black socks tonight in solidarity. Usually do anyway, but Pop saying they're doing it to make a point.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 29, 2014
Mavericks found some black socks to show solidarity for LA Clippers...photos to come on mavs blog at DMN.— Eddie Sefko (@ESefko) April 28, 2014
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is scheduled to make an announcement regarding the league's investigation into Sterling's alleged comments at 2 p.m ET on Tuesday.
- - - - - - -