Before I begin to unleash my thoughts on the latest NBA Scandal caused by the racist slurs of a franchise owner as other TC contributors did, I want to take this piece back to 2011
The 2011 NBA pre-season was cancelled and almost twenty games per team from the regular season were cancelled during a lockout which originated from a disagreement between players and owners on taxes, revenues and salaries. In the history of the league, three similar incidents occurred and were all motivated by money-related issues.
The most recent lockout and its respective negotiations were surrounded by comments that assimilated the NBA with a plantation economy, and compared, then NBA commissioner David Stern to a slave owner.
Jumping back to 2014 and Donald Sterling, I will not waste my time commenting on the audio recording of the LA Clippers owner : I believe that being a black woman sends enough of a message on how I particularly feel about this individual and I believe that Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg’s “Fuck You” message were enough of poor responses for an entire community.
As the NBA’s decision to ban Donald Sterling for life and to urge him to sell his franchise, I will not either bother to address the league, or the accused. This piece is addressed to the players. Those very athletes who are strong-headed to go on strike and call out for exploitation when it comes to the amount of zeros on their paycheck but won’t bother to stand up when it comes to defending moral values.
Contrary to public reactions, I do not consider the Clippers’ players’ removal of their warm-up T-shirts bearing their team logo an adequate reaction to the situation. Coach Doc Rivers declared that while discussing the possibility of a boycott following the Sterling tape leak, the players decided instead to vote against it.
Let’s try to apply this scandal to another context: Should Donald Sterling have been the owner of any big company, I believe the employees would have gone on strike and filed a complaint, seized unions and other organizations : the whole scandal would have resonated around the country, inciting America to do a retrospect on its history with racism. However here, in spite of the tape’s international resonance, it seems as though indignation is the only response the players could give.
While the L.A. Clippers might consider their “rise above it” reaction noble, and although I get that the team is up for a great fight against the Golden State Warriors, I wish the players had taken their eyes off of their season goals for five more minutes and see how wrongly their silence could be interpreted.
The Clippers would have made more history by standing against Sterling than if they would win the title this year: but apparently, they’d rather work to be recognized as champions than as men who fought for their integrity and to reach out to the world and younger generations on a cause that, as it appears, is still valid.
While I’m aware that a boycott would not bring back the Civil Rights Movement, and it shouldn’t intend to, it appears clear how NBA players do not understand their role here. Our society as it is now, looks up to those ball players as examples of courage and determination: most young boys certainly look up to Lebron James more than they look up to Obama these days.
How could the Clippers still pick up a basketball after knowing that the man they worked for was ignorant enough to express such profanities? And how come we only interviewing black people in this scandal? Where are other players’ reactions? Why didn’t we get a word from Larry Bird for instance?
While Sterling has been ousted for life from the NBA, it is clear that the players did not have a role to play in this decision. Comparing the 2011 lockout to the 2014, Donald Sterling’s reaction forces me to draw one simple and obvious conclusion: money is something worth fighting for these days, but racism is no longer worth fighting against. The NBA players’ lack of actual reactions makes their indignation ephemeral and only postpones an adequate address to the problem of racism in the NBA and in sports in general.