SAN FRANCISCO -- With the retired jersey of legendary athlete-activist Bill Russell hanging in the background, Los Angeles Clippers players formed a united front in light of the racist comments allegedly made by their owner, Donald Sterling. In the same USF gym that pioneer K.C. Jones once roamed, Chris Paul served as the voice of the young men who agreed to work for such a guy.
"We're not going to talk about it," Paul said.
It would be nice to hear what they have to say, how it feels to take money from a guy who might view them as an "enemy." But it's not their fight. This one is on the other 29 members of the NBA Board of Governors.
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Their lack of a stand is much more disappointing. Their lack of action to this point makes them accessories after the fact. If they don't do anything now, they graduate to co-conspirators.
Would the Clippers' boycotting Game 4 be a bold and radical message? Absolutely. But they would only be doing the work for Sterling's fellow owners. And the players' taking the hit in the name of sending a message still might not do the trick.
This challenge is on Joe Lacob and Peter Guber and their cohorts in the exclusive club of NBA franchise owners. They are the ones who should have to suffer for such associations, for tolerating such an element among their midst.
How revealing that the super image-conscious NBA owners have rubbed shoulders with Donald Sterling for years when the league has gone to great lengths to dissociate its image from the young black men who inhabit it.
It instituted a dress code to keep certain streetwear off its benches. It once airbrushed the tattoos off Allen Iverson for the cover of an NBA magazine. It has enforced an age limit to help ensure that players are mature when they come into the league, and it has drawn a hard line on fighting, or anything that could lead to a fight. It attempts to wipe the ghetto off the NBA logo.
Was this because at least one of the owners didn't want to promote the league's associations with blacks?
If only the owners club was as diligent about removing the negative element from its own ranks.
New commissioner Adam Silver already is campaigning hard to increase the age limit, even though the collective bargaining agreement is years away from expiring. Meanwhile, one of his 30 bosses is chiding his half-black girlfriend for bringing her kind to his games. Allegedly.
The embattled Clippers owner has come out and said the audio might not be him and doesn't reflect his views. But he has a track record. Multiple lawsuits speak to his character and views.
A few insiders say Sterling has long been a bad seed in their club. Several don't like him and want him out, even tried to force him to sell his team years ago. But he's armed with lawyers and ready for a fight, and the legal grounds to throw him out are thin.
Wait, so a room of billionaires can't muster the ingenuity to oust one owner from the ranks? These fellows got to where they are in life, and stay there, by making things happen. Perhaps they just haven't wanted him out badly enough. Perhaps there is a crew of old fogies like Sterling among them, who all get their beef from Cliven Bundy.
If they can't get him out legally, how about preventing him from being profitable?
Allowing the Clippers to acquire Chris Paul, after nixing a deal that would have sent him to the Lakers, and allowing them to hire championship coach Doc Rivers, isn't exactly a message you want Sterling out of your midst.