All eyes were on the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday afternoon, April 27, in Oracle Arena as they were slated to face the Golden State Warriors for the fourth time in round one of the 2014 NBA playoffs.
The Clippers organization, coaches, and players were in the midst of an emotional hangover stemming from an audio-clip released by TMZ Sports just 36 hours earlier. The audio was of a phone conversation between Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his alleged girlfriend and mistress, V. Stiviano. During the conversation Sterling dished out a bevy of outrageous racist remarks, all deriving from Stiviano posting a picture on Instagram of her and Laker legend Magic Johnson, which has since been deleted.
“You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that, and not to bring them to my games,” said the Clippers owner in one of many egregious statements he made during the recording. “Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”
In the immediate aftermath of the Sterling news, rumors swirled regarding whether the Clippers players would protest or boycott playing game four against the Warriors.
“We’ve heard all the stuff, the boycotts, and all those things you could do,” said Clippers head coach Doc Rivers to the media at practice a day prior to the game. “But we choose to play and we’re going to play tomorrow.”
The Clippers players did not go without any protest, however. After running out of the tunnel to begin warming up for the game, the entire team removed their long-sleeved warm-ups and laid them at half-court. In doing so, they also exposed that their red, short-sleeved, warm-up shirts were turned inside out, concealing the “Clippers” lettering on the outside.
While many outraged fans and spectators clamored for the Clippers players to make a monumental statement by not playing in the game, they made an even bigger impact by doing the opposite.
Americans no longer abide in a 1960′s-Civil-rights-esque where minorities have to boycott for equal rights or have to endure constant, blatant discrimination to an unbearable point. Gone are segregation laws, Jim Crow, and “Whites Only” signs. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and Medgar Evers, already paved the way for the rights of minorities in this country during their time. In today’s day in age, the Clippers players do not have to take such an enormous stand in the midst of one person’s nonsensical, racist comments.
What is most understated in this situation is the tough grind, camaraderie, and hardships that the team has gone through to get to where they are now; a high-seeded playoff team which has a legitimate opportunity to win an NBA championship. The players would have been foolish to let Sterling risk that opportunity.
Valley College basketball player Chris Aguilar stated that had he been put in a position where an athletic director or coach had made such comments, he would have still played as the Clippers did.
“Honestly I would have played because I worked way too hard in the summer to get where I am at,” said Aguilar. “ For me to not play is like giving in to what the owner says about your race or skin color.”
The Clippers are basketball players, not activists, but their lack of retaliation of sorts still spoke enormous volumes.