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‘Blackballed’ Ep. 6-10 Takeaways and Open Thread

The Clippers players and Doc Rivers take control of the Sterling situation.

Los Angeles Clippers remove their warm up jackets in sign of protest over the alleged racist remarks made by their owner Donald Sterling before playing the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of their Western Conference NBA playoff at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Photo by MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images

Five episodes have passed since we last checked in on “Blackballed”, and even in Quibi format, that’s a decent chunk of content. So instead of recapping the events starting with the team meeting after the Sterling audio was released, let’s just focus on some key takeaways from this part of the series.

  • Chris Paul said he felt that people were looking to him to sit out Game 4 to take a stand against Donald Sterling, but it was important to him — and the rest of the Clippers — to keep basketball separate from Sterling. I found that framing interesting. It seems impossible to separate the act of playing from the owner of the team, but as Paul said, “We don’t play for him anyway, we play for each other.” In a sense, part of the team’s protest was taking ownership of the game itself. Basketball mattered to the players, and they wanted to hold on to it.
  • One Doc Rivers quote really sat with me: “We didn’t do anything wrong... they were going to throw stones at us if we didn’t respond right.” So often in society it is the victims who bear the responsibility of effecting change; the Clippers weren’t at fault, but they still had to lead the response.
  • I didn’t realize that Matt Barnes was the one who came up with the protest idea of hiding the Clippers logo. His voice has really shined through in this series (and in his podcast).
Donald Sterling Demonstration Photo by Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images
  • Mayor Eric Garcetti said he called up Sterling after Game 4 to advise him to sell and got his number because it was still listed. 2014 feels like eons ago.
  • Silver said he realized almost immediately that it was “untenable” for Sterling to remain a part of the NBA, but he needed to find the legalese to push him out. I remember Mark Cuban bringing up the “slippery slope” argument at the time (the doc mentions it as well), that Sterling was being punished for something he said in the privacy of his own home; if that was grounds for dismissal, other team governors would get antsy. But Silver stuck to his guns and made the moral decision. As it turns out, Sterling would provide plenty of public fodder to make the choice more defensible.
  • I had somehow forgotten the Sterling interview with Anderson Cooper, and I never want to think about it again. The inclusion of that footage is almost worth it, however, for the reaction from Rembert Browne and Wesley Morris.