On the heels of my post from last week, I am again asking myself how much people will endure for a dollar? Only now we’re talking about a lot more money at stake. I’m referring to the whole NBA scandal involving Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his racist rant. Among other well documented abhorrent, racist comments, he says that he doesn’t want black people at his games. That was the point that was particularly prickly for a lot of people seeing as how the NBA is an organization whose players are predominately African American and has a significant African American following, not to mention the coaches and other executives the NBA employs.
Of course there has been immediate backlash. In the immediate aftermath, in addition to the obvious needed response from the NBA’s head honchos, people were calling for the Clippers most prominent player, Chris Paul, to make a statement. Chris Paul also happens to be the president of the NBA players union. So I understand why he wouldn’t come out of the gate saying something strong and not carefully vetted. Clearly he needs to give some time to construct a strategic response as a representative for all of the players. For all I know, he had a strong desire to make a personal comments but he had to temper that against his professional obligations.
By the time the Clippers were to play again on Sunday evening there still had not been any direct word from Paul. However, when the game started on Sunday, the Clippers took to the court with their jerseys turned inside out refusing to show the Clipper name on their warm-up gear, an obvious protest to the comments made by Donald Sterling. Most mainstream media called the move “subtle but powerful”. However, the majority of the court of public opinion on social media felt like this statement was not strong enough. I saw it referred to as a “notest” on Facebook. And I can’t say I disagree. Although the move was copied by the Heat in a show of solidarity, I still thought it was pretty mild. I understand that the players need to keep their head in the game. I’m sure despite what’s going on they have not lost the desire to take home a championship. And it’s unfortunate for them that this thing took place in the middle of the playoff season. But does the desire for a ring outweigh the need for a man to be respected no matter the color of his skin? Now I’m never one to try and make serious decisions on anybody else’s behalf. But I do have to wonder how it feels when you know you are on the hardwood playing for a man who doesn’t like you simply because you are black, and, who is, in fact, a known racist in your organization. Sterling has since been banned for life from the NBA, fined $2.5 million and will likely be forced to sell his ownership of the team.
As we near somewhat of a resolution, I still have to ask, when it comes to the player response: “was wearing their shirts inside out really a strong enough statement”? When the Clippers played on Sunday, they and everybody else in the stadium were still putting money directly into that man’s pocket just by being there. I know they also made money for themselves but, still, that has to hurt. Yes, the players are likely on a contract, but you have to feel as if you sold a little piece of your soul to the devil in that moment. If Donald Sterling were in uniform, there’s a good chance he would have been let go or penalized for conduct unbecoming of a player. As a society, how can we truly think its okay for him to profit off of people he openly discriminates against it. They told me slavery ended a long time ago.
What do you think? Should the players have responded more strongly? Should they have refused to play for the Clippers ever again? Is money stronger than pride?