Michael Powell, one of my favourite New York Times writers has a great piece on the Los Angeles Clippers’ players making a useless gesture against their racist owner Donald Sterling
Why not remain seated?
The Los Angeles Clippers players faced a near-impossible situation Sunday. The man who owns their team, Donald Sterling, stood exposed as a gargoyle, disgorging racial and sexual animosities so atavistic as to take the breath away.
The exposure of these rants rattled N.B.A. athletes. LeBron James, the best hoops practitioner on earth, spoke out quickly and emphatically. “They have to make a stand,” he said of N.B.A. executives. “They have to be very aggressive with it. I don’t know what it will be, but we can’t have that in our league.”
Good strong words. With luck it rattled a couple windows at the N.B.A. headquarters in Manhattan.
Then eyes turned to the Clippers on Sunday afternoon. These professional athletes have trained all their lives for their shot at an N.B.A. title. They are at their physical peak, a time measured in short years. Only a glib fool would argue their choices Sunday were obvious.
The Clippers players turned their red practice jerseys inside out, like baseball players wearing silly rally caps. Then the horn sounded and they wore their real jerseys and that was that.
Yet you wondered: Was that all they had?
What if the Clippers players had remained seated and refused to take the court? The N.B.A., whose corporate leaders and owners have known of Sterling’s racial and sexual grotesqueries for decades, and of the federal lawsuit that charged he would not rent apartments to blacks, would face a moment of truth.
Would the N.B.A. executives make the Clippers, most of whose players are black, forfeit a playoff game?
And what if the Golden State Warriors players and coaches had announced in advance that they would not accept that forfeit? They could have agreed to sit out the next game, and thus force yet another embarrassment down the gullet of the N.B.A. executives.
Look, the rejoinder to this argument arrives with its own moral force. The Clippers players and coaches are no doubt mortified to have awakened in the midst of a playoff run to find that they are working for the Bull Connor of Southern California.
Maybe the players and coaches didn’t take a stand because they had already sold out. Sterling has been known to be a racist for decades and yet everyone has remained silent. Doc Rivers said he didn’t know Sterling was a racist before he took the job. I am going to flat out say that he was lying. If he didn’t know, he is an ignorant and isolated man incapable of leading a basketball team. Sterling’s racist acts have been known for decades, challenged in court, and all over the news. He would have known about them as a player and coach but instead took the money to play in Los Angeles with the hope that it was dealt with.
It wasn’t and instead of taking a stand, they waited for someone else to do something. Hardly the story of courage; it’s the story of sellouts who all signed a contract that was offered to them by someone that can’t stand the colour of many of their skins.