Nothing in the world of sports has created a larger maelstrom than the after math of the Donald Sterling tapes and how they effect the Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers series.
There’s a part of me that’s not surprised that an 80 year old, white billionaire would be such an unbelievable racist but what I do appreciate is the social reaction to the Donald Sterling tapes. People are livid and they should be. It’s outrageous that anyone in this day and age would say the things that Sterling bothered uttering to his Mexican/African-American girlfriend especially when the majority of his own employees are of the very decent he doesn’t want to associate with publicly.
Unfortunately I just don’t see a way out of this situation where Sterling gets brought to any real justice. The guy is worth a reported $1.9 billion. If he sells the Clippers – which is probably the most likely outcome – he will lose the most important property in his life and gain about a billion bucks in cash. There won’t be jail time, or government seizures. Just the loss of his team through a billion dollar transaction and the social repercussions of being a known racist pig.
That feels like enough. For however much longer Donald Sterling lives, people will see him as a racist scumbag. No amount of money will ever take that label off his forehead. Not when he’s basically treated the Clippers like a plantation and not when he has no respect for other human life.
However, it’s left the Clippers in an unenviable situation. There are times in sports where “making a statement” is not as important as “winning the game” because that’s the only statement you really need to make. But this issue is so personal to the professional basketball players of the Los Angeles Clippers, that they have to do something more than dump their warm ups on to center court, or wear black socks.
The problem with betting on the Clippers is that they’re justifiably distracted. As players, they likely feel they have a moral obligation to make a social statement against a racist owner who sees them as nothing more than million-dollar slaves. Coach Doc Rivers has labeled the issue a “distraction” more than anything else, and that’s exactly what it seems to be at a very basic level. The Clippers were destroyed on the court during Sunday’s Game 4 which saw Golden State win 118-97. It’s obvious that the Clippers were effected after the Donald Sterling tapes were released and that makes them a stay-away play for most handicappers. There are simply too many unknowns.
The Clippers can not be blamed for having a human reaction to a seismic moment in the history of the NBA. They need to do something, and even “winning games” seems like the wrong thing to do as it would only generate more personal profits for Sterling and bring even more attention to the franchise, which is still a money churning asset for him at the end of the day.
Remaining First Round Schedule:
Game 5 at Los Angeles (Tuesday, April 29th)
Game 6 at Golden State (Thursday, May 1st)
Game 7 at Los Angeles (Saturday, May 3rd – if necessary)
So what is the right thing to do here? Who knows. Ultimately I believe the NBA will force Sterling out by legal circumstance or some backroom chicanery. Magic Johnson and the group with which he owns the Dodgers through, has already expressed very real interest in buying the team.
As far as gambling on Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers games goes, however, I think that the players are going to have different mindsets. The Warriors are still focused on basketball and this series in general. The Clippers have a lot more responsibility to deal with, and the fact that they have an owner that they don’t want to play for anymore might be the final nail in the coffin for their 2013-14 season.
The truth is that I have no idea what’s going to happen next. If Sunday’s game was any indication, I think that winning is off the table for the Clippers. Chris Paul is the union leader, the team is predominantly African-American and there are too many social and emotional factors at play here. Doc Rivers may view this as an unnecessary distraction, but the league as a whole and every person attached to the NBA must take a stand in the wake of the Donald Sterling tapes.
Racism will never go away, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it. Whether the Clippers choose to continue fighting on the hardwood after the Donald Sterling tapes fiasco will say nothing about them as individuals. Should they choose to continue to play and pursue a championship, it will be admired like nothing before. If they choose to simply lay down and refuse to play for a racist owner, everyone will understand and applaud them.
This is an issue that goes beyond the court. Unfortunately for the Clippers fans, it likely means that their team is out of the playoff hunt. I just can’t see how this team rallies after the Donald Sterling tapes.
But I do see how they recover as a franchise.
Step one is obvious: get rid of Donald Sterling.