Opinion

Yes, You Should Still Root for the Clippers

Yes, You Should Still Root for the Clippers

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The Staples Center, home of the L.A. Clippers

I know. I’ve encouraged San Diego sports fans to support the Los Angeles Clippers. Actually, I’ve done it more than once.

But now that recordings have surfaced of the Clippers’ owner, Donald Sterling, making racist remarks, the question on everyone’s mind is: How should we respond?

John Gennaro on SportsClippers players, after toying with the idea of boycotting Sunday’s playoff game against the Golden State Warriors, decided to make a statement during their pregame warm-ups:

Each of the players also wore black socks, and a couple of other teams did the same yesterday, as another form of silent protest against Sterling.

It was the best they could do. They didn’t do anything wrong. The players are the biggest victim in all of this. Boycotting the game would’ve hurt them financially, and put the players in the center of the scandal instead of Sterling himself. Better for them to show their disapproval, do their jobs and hope the league can settle this situation soon.

Sponsors are responding in the only way they can, by packing up and leaving.

So, what are fans to do?

Fans have been encouraged not to buy tickets to the next playoff game, or to stay at home if they’ve already bought tickets. The idea being that losing a few thousand dollars on the game might hurt Sterling, who is worth $1.9 billion.

I am here to tell you to continue to support the team. Not because pulling support would hurt the players more than Sterling, though it would. I’m not even saying root for them forever regardless of their owner. I’m saying that the longer the Clippers stay in the playoffs, the more the media spotlight will stay on Sterling.

The media is the only tool we have against Sterling at the moment. The league will need to take time to investigate the validity of the audio recordings and then figure out what power it has. It won’t be able to force Sterling to sell the team, and it won’t really be able to fine him either (because how do you say, “You can be racist as long as you’re willing to pay a certain amount every time you get caught on tape?”), so the league’s only resource will be a long-term suspension. In this instance, a suspension essentially means that Sterling will have to watch games from home. Not much of a punishment.

The goal should be make to Sterling as uncomfortable as possible for as long as possible, so that he sees selling the team as his only recourse. The team, which will continue to wear black socks, will continue to embarrass its owner. Players will all ask for their release in the offseason if Sterling isn’t gone, and they can be vocal about that right now.

The last thing this story needs, however, is a reason to fade away. If the season ends for the Clippers, if players disappear into their year-end vacations and the focus inevitably moves to the remaining teams, Sterling will be able to ride this out. The media will pack up and leave his doorstep. The conversation will fade away.

So, root for the Clippers.

Root for the players taking a stand and embarrassing their team’s owner. Root for a racist to be held up in front of the world for scrutiny for as long as possible. It may be the only form of punishment that actually makes Sterling think twice about his views.

Buy a ticket to Game 5 and don’t feel bad about it. Cheer louder than you ever have. If the team wins, rejoice in the players’ small accomplishment and their larger symbolic win.

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John Gennaro

John Gennaro

I'm John Gennaro, contributor to Active Voice and managing editor of Bolts from the Blue. You can tweet me @john_gennaro or email me directly at boltsfromtheblue@gmail.com.

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19 comments
shawn fox
shawn fox subscriber

"How should we respond?"  Huh?  Why do we need to respond?  The Players aren't responsible for racist comments so why shouldn't anyone root for or against the Clippers?  It all depends on whether you ever rooted for the players in the first place!  The idea of players boycotting playoffs is laughable!  Do you think that the players would really give up a championship opportunity because of an owner who is and always has been a slimebag?  Honestly, I'm not even sure why any of this was a surprise to anyone.  The guy has been slime for many years, and nobody gave a damn.  Now the league wants to force him to sell a team which he legally owns?  Strange.  To me it is a slippery slope when the NBA or any other league has the authority to force someone to sell property. The players are certainly not victims unless you consider being a millionaire being a victim.  They have a right to be angry just like anyone else but victims?  Please.

michael-leonard
michael-leonard subscriber

Mr. Gennero, how the heck does San Diego rooting the Clippers affect their tenure in the playoffs?? You think they're gonna play any different/better because we  are cheering them at home and in taverns? Oh, that's the logic of a "sports fan" I guess.

Ron Hidinger
Ron Hidinger subscriber

In a way, it's a shame we will miss the spectacle, should the clips win it all, of the media slobbering over Sterling and his long dedication to excellence and his steadfast support to the clips and their fans.

Matty Azure
Matty Azure subscriber

Sterling uses satin sheets.

Signed,

LA KKKlippers 

gumballgary
gumballgary

@voiceofsandiego Anything less than Donald losing the team will result in riots tomorrow on April 29; 22nd anniv of LA riots.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

A married guy goes on an angry rant with his girlfriend that is being sued by his wife and this gets national attention with even the president chiming in.

Glad the country doesn't have any real problems.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

In a way, this incident reminds me of the mugging cooking guru Paula Deen got for racist remarks she made decades ago.  I think Sterling is not only a racist, but a sleaze of an owner, who until the last few years used a tactic that made him millions but didn’t win many games, namely to get high draft choices, keep them until they become valuable and trade them for slugs so he didn’t have to pay up.  His salary costs were miles below most NBA teams, and he cried all the way to the bank as Clipper fans slashed their wrists.  He understood that his market was big enough that, regardless of the team’s record, he’d have enough fans to make a bundle.

This current incident should be no surprise. His former General Manager, Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor, sued him (unsuccessfully) on racial grounds.  The question here, Kobe Bryant’s opinion notwithstanding, should be whether this country still allows people to express personal opinions in private.  After all, his alleged girlfriend, the one he gave three cars and a condo, recorded him without his knowledge and somehow the recording got public.  Sure, the opinions he expresses are vile, and if I were Magic Johnson I’d never go to another Clipper’s game either, but these hysterical demands that he be fired from owning a team are a bit over the top, particularly from a guy like Bryant.  Seems I remember Kobe forcing himself on a young girl (in less genteel circles they call this rape) in a hotel while he was on the road with the Lakers, paying her a bundle to go away and buying his wife a huge diamond to assuage HER feelings.  How does this stack up compared to holding and expressing nasty views on race?  What happened to Bryant?

I’ll bet you one thing, Doc Rivers has HIS resume‘ in circulation at this point.  How do you effectively coach a team under these circumstances?        

Oscar Ramos
Oscar Ramos subscribermember

The media should have done a better job on Sterling’s history of racial discrimination, but they’re being forced to do it now, and the athletes and the league now must respond. There’s no statute of limitations on calling someone out for being racist- especially if they are still being racist!


All the NBA athletes in the playoffs (not just the black players and not just the Clippers) should boycott the playoffs until the league forces Sterling out. I’ve read a lot of arguments about how being able to walk off the job in protest is a privilege most people don’t have, but NBA athletes can literally afford to do it. They need to remind management about the source of their wealth: it lies with the athletes, the majority of whom happen to be black- although you don’t have to be black to be offended by Sterling’s remarks. It’s disgusting that we would give a man access to a position from which he would flaunt his hatred for the very people who have made him wealthy. If the NBA doesn’t do anything about it, he’s threatening to drag their brand through the mud. The NBA will be the Lululemon of sports.  


NBA players matter to my students. I would like to point at them and say, “look, these guys forced the league to act.” If the Clippers players force an action, I’ll buy a Chris Paul jersey and wear it proudly. If they don’t, why would I want to watch a group of millionaires embrace their subservience? 

David Crossley
David Crossley subscriber

I will NEVER support the Clippers as long as Sterling owns the club.  I have felt this way since before Sterling moved the franchise to LA.  He should put the club up for sale immediately so he can maximize the $$ he would get for selling it.  Take the money and go away, Donald, before you completely ruin this franchise AGAIN!.

SDuncovered
SDuncovered

@John_Gennaro YW. Hadn't connected those dots myself: Team leaves national stage, controversy may too. Curious to see NBA's stance tomorrow.

Matty Azure
Matty Azure subscriber

@Bill Bradshaw  

Paula Dean deserves to be incarcerated for her excessive use of black mascara.

Signed,

Cover Girl 

shawn fox
shawn fox subscriber

@Oscar Ramos Would YOU give up hundreds of thousands or more in pay and a chance at a championship just because a team owner was racist?  If so then I would have to seriously question your intelligence.  The players shouldn't have to punish themselves for someone else's actions.

John_Gennaro
John_Gennaro

@SDuncovered Literally always my #1 concern when it comes to stories like this. Our attention spans are short and our follow-up blows.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

@AzureMatty @Bill Bradshaw  Matty, I love your sense of humor.  Let's have a beer one day.

Oscar Ramos
Oscar Ramos subscribermember

@Jim Jones I disagree. Employers take a chance on employees and then fire them when they become a burden. Fans, sponsors, and players can all decide enough is enough with owners. True, he should have been ousted long ago, especially after the housing issue, so doing it now is not as virtuous. Now he's talking directly about the NBA's fans and if the players can't even stand up for that, I don't see why we cheer.


Imagine if the Padres ownership was caught badmouthing the military. 

SDuncovered
SDuncovered

@John_Gennaro Lot fighting for our attention these days too. Tough for stories to stay atop the fray for long.

Oscar Ramos
Oscar Ramos subscribermember

 Yes, you sound so concerned.