Should the Clippers refuse to play their next home game?
We've already covered Donald Sterling's extremely racist, disturbing comments, but I needed to weigh in.
If you're Doc Rivers, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin or any other member of the Clippers organization -- how do you continue to stay focused on the task at hand, and more importantly, continue to make this guy money?
I understand that the Clippers players probably don't have much interaction with Sterling, but after listening to what he has to say about African Americans (who just so happen to make up 70% of the NBA), it's got to be damn near impossible for the players to put aside how they're feeling and play for an organization owned by such a bigot.
And the conundrum is complicated further by this fact: the longer their playoff run goes, the more money Sterling makes. Every home game is 18,000 tickets sold at $250+ a piece, plus all of the additional sales inside the stadium. So as much as the Clips may try and block everything out and go on an "us vs. the world" run -- these players are smart, and they know that their owner, who is basically disgusted by them as human beings, will be benefiting from it.
And considering these comments were taped illegally via a cell phone conversation, it's no lock that the NBA will be successful in punishing Sterling. Sure, they may force him out, but keep in mind this is already a guy who has settled a $2.7 million lawsuit in 2005 for discriminating against Black and Hispanic tenants at properties he owned. Nothing was done then, and it's possible nothing will be done now. Sterling has always been racist, and even though these comments create a firestorm for the league, chasing an owner out is never a quick or easy process.
So what options do the Clippers have?
1. Keep playing and avoid the conversation entirely ("no comment").
2. Keep playing and publicly rip Sterling despite the fact that he signs their checks.
3. Hold some kind of protest.
#1 would be really disappointing. #2 is the most likely, and if the team could somehow block these comments out and win the organizations first championship, that would be inspiring in it's own way. Then again, imagine Adam Silver handing the Larry O'Brien trophy to Sterling (or even someone else representing his ownership group)? Um, no thanks.
And then there's #3. It's unlikely and would take an amazing amount of guts, but imagine Doc and his players (led by Paul, the head of the players association) refusing to play Game 5 of their series with the Warriors (their next home game). It would be a forfeit, and it would punish the fans for something they had nothing to do with, but it would also hit Sterling in the only place that matters to him -- his wallet. Hundreds of thousands (probably a few million) dollars he would need to refund to the fans, something that would hurt him far more than these comments going public has.
It's not fair to expect this from the players and/or Doc, but if the team could win Game 4 and take a 3-1 series lead, it would be an amazing show of protest. Sterling clearly views African American employees as simply money signs, and for one game at least, they would be refusing to make him money. They'd still be up 3-2 in the series, and hopefully their actions would send a message to the NBA if they haven't already received it: get this guy the fuck out of here as soon as possible (can you imagine the fallout with TNT who has the rights to the game? The NBA would also be cutting a big check).
Again, it's extremely unlikely to happen. But with Doc and Paul representing the team, there's a chance they do decide to protest in some way. These are proud, successful African Americans who seemingly won't let Sterling get away with this. And much as it's unfair to Clippers fans ready to attend Game 5, I think most of them would understand that some things are bigger than basketball. And getting this human scum out of the league is one of those things.
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