Well so much for that second NAACP lifetime achievement award.
Maybe it's because for the first time, well, pretty much ever, Donald Sterling's bad behavior has coincided with the Clippers being in the spotlight. They are a showcase NBA franchise on the short list of teams considered to be realistic contenders for an NBA title and in the middle of perhaps the most exciting first round matchup in the playoffs. Truly, this LA Clippers team, headlined by one of the league's most exciting pair of stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, hardly resembles the laughable franchise that for the last 30 years has been without question the worst in all of professional sports. They also hold title to a state of the art practice facility, superstar players, and a big-name head coach. And all this while the Los Angeles Lakers are lottery bound. Things had never been better in Clipperland-- until Donald Sterling's latest dark cloud rolled over Los Angeles this weekend.
Is it possible that the fans and media just didn't really care about Donald Sterling's antics when the Clippers were regularly winning 35 games a year? I know I am not the only one who read stories about Donald Sterling's bad behavior-- there was racial discrimination in his real estate business in 2006-- or how about in 2011, when TrueHoop brought to light allegations that he would bring women into the Locker room while players were showering making comment such as "look at their beautiful black bodies." Those were complaints made by Clipper players. No real media coverage. No mass outrage. No sanctions by the league office.
The comments made on that tape revealed by TMZ were awful and truly cringe-worthy. It is embarrassing that such thoughts even exist in the 21st century, let alone by someone in Sterling's position. We live in a society that loves nothing more than to see successful people, companies, brands etc. caught in scandals, and while that definitely plays a part in the coverage of this story, the truth is that there is something provocative about hearing such awful hate/bigotry direct from the lips of the source that rightfully sets off indignation. It angers us, as it should.
Whether by luck, savvy, or coincidence, after years of futility, Donald Sterling found himself surrounded by smart basketball people who convinced him to spend money smartly. They created a team, a brand, that has had a real impact on the sport and Los Angeles. Long suffering Clipper fans finally have something to cheer for. The team has a new generation of young fans who have only known a fun, successful team. Talented basketball players and coaches, all proud of all that they have accomplished, work hard every day to achieve the ultimate goal of winning a championship. That is what makes this whole story so sad. All of these people are affected by Donnie "Tokowitz" Sterling's bigotry. I would say that Sterling ought to be ashamed of himself, but quite Frankly, I don't believe he is capable of that particular emotion.
Some members of the suddenly outraged media have called for fan and player protests, but nothing could be more unfair or unreasonable. The players should play and the fans should support them in spite of Donald Sterling. The players don't play for Sterling, they play for themselves and the fans that support them. The fans don't cheer for Donald Sterling (In fact many have hated the guy for years). They cheer for Chris Paul, for Blake Griffin. They cheer for Jared Dudley to get in at the end of the game and knock down a 3. They cheer because they love the game and the players. This is not a Los Angeles Clippers issue, this is an NBA issue, a societal issue. The responsibility lies with the league office, the media, and corporate sponsors: Don't let Donald Sterling off the hook this time, and don't punish the fans and players in the process.
The Clippers made a statement on Sunday when they threw their warm-ups down at center court at Oracle Arena. The fans can make a statement too: Support your team, dress for a blackout in game 5. Start a Sterling-sucks chant before the game and at half-time. Do what you feel you need to do. But most importantly, get Staples Center as loud is it was for game two and support the Los Angeles Clippers' players. They deserve it, and so do you.