Clippers stage silent protest to Sterling; NAACP pulls lifetime achievement award

83302 full

The Los Angeles Clippers chose not to speak publicly about owner Donald Sterling's alleged racist comments at Sunday's Game 4 of their playoff against Golden State. Instead, they made a silent protest.

In response to Sterling's purported comments urging a woman to not bring black people to his team's games, the Clippers let their uniforms become a show of solidarity.

They ran out of the tunnel for Game 4 of their first-round playoff at Golden State wearing their warmups. Then they huddled at center court and tossed their warmups to the ground, going through their pregame routine with their red Clippers' shirts inside out to hide the team's logo.

Players also wore black wristbands or armbands. They all wore black socks with their normal jerseys.

"It's just us, only us. We're all we got," Clippers star guard Chris Paul could be heard shouting to teammates before they ran out.

The sellout crowd of 19,596, decked out in gold shirts, booed the Clippers — as they always do — during introductions. In the end, the Warriors won, 118 to 97. 

Sterling's wife, Shelly, was sitting courtside across from the Clippers' bench. Commissioner Adam Silver had said Donald Sterling would not be at the game.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before the game that he would remain the only one to speak for the team on this, saying players want to remain focused on basketball. Even he, though, acknowledged that has not been easy since TMZ released the alleged recording of Sterling on Saturday.

He declined to comment on what actions he'd like to see the league take.

LA Clippers pregame interview

"Our message is to play," Rivers said. "Our message is that we're going to let no one and nothing stop us from what we want to do. And I think that's a good message. I really do. I think that's the message we're trying to send. And if we can pull this off all the way, I think that would be a terrific message."

While the Clippers wanted to let their play do the talking, other NBA players continued to speak out on the subject.

Some talked about the hurt Sterling's alleged words caused. Others urged Silver to take an aggressive stance against Sterling, who has a history of alleged discrimination. Most of them hoped Sterling would be removed as the team's owner someday soon.

"We're more than basketball players," Wizards guard Garrett Temple said. "We're human beings, first and foremost, and when you hear something like that, it's very unfortunate that whoever that is talking feels that way, and I don't think there's any place in this game or in the world, for that matter, for thoughts like that."

Miami Heat star LeBron James said Silver needed to take action, going so far as to suggest "there is no room for Donald Sterling in our league." Lakers star Kobe Bryant wrote on his Twitter page that he couldn't play for Sterling. Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who played for the Clippers from 1992-94, said he could forgive Sterling but couldn't play for him right now, either.

The players union, still without an executive director since firing Billy Hunter in February 2013, is following the situation closely. The union has asked former NBA All-Star and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to take a leading role on the players' behalf to address the Sterling matter.

Johnson and Silver attended the game Sunday. Johnson said he called an emergency phone meeting of every player representative to the union Saturday night and spoke with Silver before the game. He said this is a "defining moment" for the NBA and for Silver.

Johnson, a former NBA player, said players trust that the commissioner will meet their demands, which include: Sterling not attend any NBA games for the rest of the playoffs; a full account of past allegations of discrimination by Sterling and why the league never sanctioned him; the range of options that the league can penalize Sterling, including the maximum penalty, which players want if the audio recording is validated; assurance that the NBA and the union will be partners in the investigation; and an immediate and decisive ruling, hopefully before the Clippers host the Warriors for Game 5 on Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

Johnson also said there will be no league-wide protest by players or any kind of boycott because there's enough attention on the issue already and that players "trust Adam Silver. They trust that Adam Silver will do the right thing."

Jackson also wanted to make clear that the audio affected his team, too. He said they spoke about the comments Saturday and decided to use the issue as a platform to spark change.

"You stand up there and you answer questions as an African-American man," Jackson said, "and you sound intelligent and you carry yourself and conduct yourself to answer and let people know."

The game Sunday provided a bigger platform than anybody in the organization could remember in the past two decades.

The Warriors said they had more than 100 credential requests since Saturday for a total of about 220 media members approved. The team said there were only about 140 to 150 credentialed media for Game 3 on Thursday, and there were about 60 for regular-season game this past season.

For the players, concentrating on the game might have been the toughest task.

"As much as this is about basketball, this is life," Rivers said. "And our guys, they have family. They have friends. And that have cellphones. And I can't imagine how much they've been pulled on and talked to and what you should do and what you shouldn't do and what you should say."

Earlier Sunday, President Barack Obama said that Sterling's reported comments are "incredibly offensive racist statements," before casting them as part of a continuing legacy of slavery and segregation that Americans must confront.

"When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything, you just let them talk," Obama said when asked to respond to the reported comments from Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald Sterling.

Obama's description of the controversy as part of a larger historical context is the latest example of his continuing willingness to expound on matters of race in his second term.

The The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) also announced Sunday via Twitter that it would no longer honor Sterling with a lifetime achievement award at its 100th anniversary event May 15. 

NAACP tweet

Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Rev. Al Sharpton are expected to receive person of the year awards at the event. 

Lorraine Miller, interim president of the NAACP, called for a previous award given to Sterling to be rescinded in a statement released Sunday.

“Let me make it clear, the NAACP will not be honoring Mr. Sterling at the upcoming Los Angeles branch event and we have strongly urged our Los Angeles unit to take the necessary steps to rescind the previous award they bestowed on him.
 
The remarks attributed to Mr. Sterling are outrageous and remind us that racism is alive and well at every socioeconomic level.  With the election of President Obama, many were sold the idea that the United States would be instantly transformed into a post racial society and racism would be eviscerated.  People who bought that idea were sold wolf tickets.
 
As a nation, we must ask ourselves if we are living up to the obligations of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Constitutional that require equality in opportunity for all people regardless of the color of their skin. If we cannot answer in the affirmative, we must redouble our efforts to ensure this goal is reached. 
 
If the adage that silence means acceptance, the worst thing our country can do in the face of bigotry is remain quiet.  We must stand up, speak out and call attention to a real problem."

RELATED: NBA commissioner on Clippers owner Donald Sterling's alleged racist remarks: No sanctions yet

An audio recording obtained by TMZ alleges that Sterling made racist comments to girlfriend V. Stiviano, including urging her not to bring black friends to Clippers games. The NBA and the Clippers are investigating, including whether the male voice on the recording is in fact Sterling's. On Sunday, Deadspin released an extended version of the alleged conversation. 

Stiviano’s attorney denied that his client leaked the recording to media.

“Ms. Stiviano did not release the tape(s) to any news media,” attorney Mac E. Nehoray said in the statement. "Due to the present litigation and its absurd allegations, which Ms. Stiviano vehemently denies, Ms. Stiviano and this office have no comments at this time."

Stiviano’s attorney denied that his client leaked the recording to media.

“Ms. Stiviano did not release the tape(s) to any news media,” attorney Mac E. Nehoray said in the statement. "Due to the present litigation and its absurd allegations, which Ms. Stiviano vehemently denies, Ms. Stiviano and this office have no comments at this time."

The firestorm over Sterling's comments has quickly engulfed the National Basketball Association.

"He shouldn’t own a team anymore," Magic Johnson said on ABC's NBA Countdown Sunday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "And, he should stand up and say ‘I don’t want to own a team anymore,’ especially when you have African-Americans renting his apartments, coming to his games, playing for him and coaching for him. This is bad for everybody. This is bad for America. I’m really upset about it."

Michael Jordan spoke out Sunday, saying he's both disgusted and outraged by the alleged racist comments. 

Jordan released a statement addressing the matter as both a current owner and a former player. He says that as an owner, "I'm completely disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views."

As a former player, Jordan says "I'm completely outraged."

RELATED: NBA has at least 3 options for sanctions if Sterling tapes are authentic

Obama cast his comments through a broader prism of racism in America, adding that "we constantly have to be on guard on racial attitudes that divide us rather than embracing our diversity as a strength."

"The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that's still there, the vestiges of discrimination," Obama said during a news conference in Malaysia, where he was traveling.

"We've made enormous strides, but you're going to continue to see this percolate up every so often," he added. "And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this stand out some much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves."

In the recording attributed to Sterling recording and posted on the website TMZ, a male voice questions his girlfriend's association with minorities. TMZ reported the woman, V. Stiviano, is of black and Mexican descent.

The man asks Stiviano not to broadcast her association with black people or bring black people to games. The man specifically mentions Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson on the recording, saying, "Don't bring him to my games, OK?"

Obama said he's confident NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will address the matter. He said the NBA has "an awful lot of African American players, it's steeped in African American culture. And I suspect that the NBA is going to be deeply concerned in resolving this."

Silver had said the NBA needs to confirm authenticity of the audio tape and interview both Sterling and the woman in the recording. He called the tape "disturbing and offensive" and promised to investigate quickly.

blog comments powered by Disqus