For several days, the NBA world has wondered how players would react to the controversy surrounding Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling's racist comments and subsequent punishment (or lack thereof) from commissioner Adam Silver. Tuesday's announcement that Sterling has been banned for life and fined $2.5 million has rendered any possibility of major reactions from the players' union and its members moot, but internal discussions about the potential boycotts were sincere. As reported by Yahoo's Marc Spears, Miami Heat reserve and NBPA vice president Roger Mason Jr. said that players had planned on boycotting Tuesday night's three playoff games if they considered the league's punishment lacking in severity.
Another report details one of those planned boycotts. According to Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group, the Golden State Warriors had a dramatic exit set for Tuesday night's Game 5 vs. the Clippers at Staples Center:
The Warriors were going to go through pre-game warm-ups and take part in the national anthem and starting lineup introductions. They were going to take the floor for the jump ball, dapping up the Clippers players as is customary before games. Then once the ball was in the air, they were just going to walk off. All 15 of them.
“It would have been our only chance to make a statement in front of the biggest audience that we weren’t going to accept anything but the maximum punishment,” [point guard Stephen] Curry said. “We would deal with the consequences later but we were not going to play.”
The message was intentionally bold and controversial, Curry said. And if they had their way, the Clippers would have joined them in exiting the court. [...]
Curry, David Lee, Jermaine O’Neal and Draymond Green were behind the boycott idea. The bold message the Warriors had plan[ned] was hatched at shootaround.
It's necessary to point out that any plans revealed after they have been scratched could be exaggerated. However, there are also many reasons to believe that these plans were real, and the mere fact that Curry and others were willing to speak about them at all suggests that it was a legitimate suggestion.
If this exact boycott had happened, it would have been one of the most powerful (and controversial) moments in the history of the NBA and all American sports. The sight of players refusing to play in full view of live TV cameras and fans would have served as a strong message to the world about the proper relationship between owners and players. They are partners in this business, not merely employers and employees, and they demand proper respect.
It's perhaps most meaningful that the Warriors, a group of people who did not directly suffer from an association with Sterling, viewed such a dramatic boycott as a proper response. Over the past few days, as various teams show support for the Clippers and join in their own protests, it has become clear that NBA players view themselves as a fraternity with related interests. If one team finds itself in a thorny situation in relation to its bosses, then others will come to their aid. However, beyond all that, it seems as if non-Clippers players have identified a shared experience relative to league control. This issue is not just about a baseline level of racial equality, but players earning the respect and power that their position in this business deserves.
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