As the Los Angeles Clippers took the floor Sunday for their warm-up, they all met at half court in a high-profile huddle. With a flourish, they tore off their warm-up jackets and tossed them on the floor, revealing red shirts turned inside out.
That would be the Clippers refusing to represent the logo of a franchise owned by recently-outed, but long-suspected, bigot. Not a bad start for a protest.
Unfortunately, minutes later, they were on the court, playing Game 4 in full Clippers regalia -- logos and all.
My problem with this mini-protest is that it failed to do the one thing that a protest must do -- create urgency to provoke action.
I understand the coaches' and players' desire to stay focused on the task at hand. Still, I was unimpressed, so with that in mind, I present three things that the Clippers should have done.
1. A work slowdown. This is a classic protest move of industrial laborers -- they don't exactly strike, but they don't exactly work. The Clippers could have taken the court as if everything was normal, but then refuse to play offense.
Imagine how awesome that would be to watch Chris Paul walk the ball across half court then just stop. How beautiful would it have been to watch them rack up back-to-back-to-back 24 second shot clock violations?
The irony is that the Warriors put up 39 points in the first quarter, leaving the Clippers down by 15 after only 12 minutes. Maybe if the Clippers would have been better off if they had just "slowed down" the game and focused on playing some defense.
If the Clippers had "slowed down," I bet that Mark Jackson would have instructed his players to "slow down" also. Imagine 12 minutes of consecutive shot-clock violations, with little kids around the world turning to their parents to ask, "Why aren't they playing?" TNT cutting to a commercial break so that Blake Griffin could sell us a Kia, Chris Paul could sell us All State insurance, and Steph Curry could explain to us how much the "NBA Cares." Priceless.
2. A black player salute. The Clippers could have taken the court with custom jerseys sporting the names of some of the great black basketball players on whose back the league was built. Some giants that come to mind immediately are Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. Or, they could have included great barrier-breaking black athletes from other sports: Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson, Jack Johnson, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Wilma Rudolph, Marshall "Major" Taylor, Venus Williams, Tiger Woods, and the list goes on.
3. Play two on two. The two teams could have coordinated to arrange a two-on-two matchup: J.J. Reddick and Hedo Turkoglu vs. David Lee and Steve Blake. In other words: imagine an NBA without the black people.
They missed an opportunity to make history, the rare chance to create a moment that would live on in history forever. Like Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the winners' podium.
Like Ali refusing conscription into the army. Instead, it may become another footnote in the history of American racism and so-called "$40 million slaves."
Andrew F. Williams is an experienced educator, social entrepreneur and soccer coach. He is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and has lived and worked in Africa, Latin America and the South Pacific. He is currently completing a master's degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education before returning to Oakland to teach and coach.