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The Lo Down: How to Make Donald Pay?

LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trail Blazers wears black socks during the third quarter of Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Houston Rockets during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center on April 27, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. The Blazers won the game 123-120. The teams wore black socks in solidarity for the Los Angeles Clippers after the alleged racist remarks by their owner Donald Sterling. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Donald Sterling
Getty Images

Donald Sterling is a racist.

There, it’s said. So no matter where this article goes from here on out, nothing I write will change that statement or my opinion. Exhausted from all the Donald Sterling/LA Clippers coverage? Well don’t worry here’s an entire Lo Down on the subject with my own personal rants/thoughts strewn throughout.

Donald Sterling is 78 years old and worth $1.9 billion dollars according to Forbes, and unconfirmed subject of a recorded 15-minute racially charged rant to a mistress.

Frankly, the way the recording starts I’m just laughing cause here’s another old-disgruntled man complaining about social media. Hell, I’m impressed he even knows how to check Instagram. (Meanwhile, my father still refuses to acknowledge that his cell phone has this function called a text message).

And this whole situation is froth with drama; I’m not a fan of daily soap operas, but the more I learn, the more this sounds like one, Donald Sterling playing the curmudgeon (also racist) villain of the show.

The cast doesn’t end there. This soap has a mistress, played by Vanessa Steviano (by the way, where can I get that hat? And does it double as a welding mask?). Add the fact that we have an ex-wife who’s suing Vanessa; and Vanessa vowing revenge on Donald – Catfight!

Honestly, the whole thing is unbecoming and furthermore in my opinion Vanessa Steviano coaxes Sterling into further embarrassment in the recording. I mean, who honestly tapes a private conversation without deliberate intent? And while all of this is personal drama, the big losers here are the players forced in a conundrum of playing for personal gain while trying to make a statement against the owner that signs their paychecks, “The awkward moment when you find out your boss is a racist.”

Fittingly, home to the old Coliseum, the people of Los Angeles are calling for Donald Sterling’s blood! So what’s the best way to make him really hurt, to really feel the protest and the effects of his racists beliefs? I’ve decided to score existing and potential protests on a scale of 1 to 5; 1 being little to no effect and 5 being of some significance to a man with $1.9 billion in armor.

CLIPPERS PLAYERS LEAVE JERSEYS ON THE FLOOR (1.4)
Not wholly condoned by Coach Doc Rivers, and not going as far as rumors to boycott the game, Clippers players decided to flip their practice shirts inside out, and place them at center court as a unified statement.

End result, not a whole lot to inflict retribution on Donald Sterling, other than “Hey we know what you said, and we’re not pleased.”

The players also wore black socks as a sign of unity. In other news, I wore black socks to the gym, no one commended me on my sign of support of NBA players and minorities everywhere. But then again I wear them every day and am also a minority.

NBA TEAMS FOLLOW SUIT IN SIGN OF PROTEST (2.3)
The Portland Trailblazers, Miami Heat and the Houston Rockets followed suit in similar forms of silent protest with their jerseys inside-out and adorning black socks.

I upgraded this a few points because this made the issue larger than just one owner. The NBA is made up of the logos that embody every NBA team. The logos represent identities, jersey sales, team names and brand dollars; and when they aren’t being worn and represented there is no league.

Combined with a sport that markets internationally and relies on a work force that is 78 percent black to produce a product; a disgruntled work force is one way to force the other half of the NBA equation (the owners) to take action. Shall I remind readers of 2011? No workforce, no NBA season.

LEBRON SPEAKS UP (2.5)
“There’s no room for Donald Sterling in our league,” proclaimed LeBron to national television audiences. When the most popular (hate or love) player in your league speaks, people listen.

Not only was LeBron succinct and eloquent, he demanded and all but guaranteed that although Sterlings’ comments were made privately, Sterling was going to face some form of public reprimand from the NBA Commissioners office.

FANS REFUSE TO ATTEND / WATCH (1.2)
It’s not that this wouldn’t make a statement. It’s not that it wouldn’t cause a financial shortfall. But I discounted this form of protest simply due to the unlikelihood of it actually happening.

The Clippers are in the playoffs facing one of the most entertaining teams in the NBA, and after how terrible the Lakers have been all season, LA basketball fans are going to want to watch; if for anything else to see what the buzz is about.

Rule No.1 in publicity: There’s no such thing as bad publicity; and unfortunately all of this negative buzz is only drawing more attention to the franchise.

I predict ratings will be high and attendance strong. While many fans may be publicly showing their displeasure through signs and chants, they still will have purchased a ticket. Overall, same conundrum as the players: How do you balance personal wants while still making a form of protest? The Clippers want to win a championship, but also want to teach their racist owner a lesson. It’s a difficult problem to solve.

KEY STAKEHOLDERS DECLINE THEIR RELATIONSHIPS (4.0)
First, how about all the courtside seats at the clippers game be emptied?

Players could easily arrange for guests to watch in a private box or other favors (Does Blake Griffin do birthday parties?). Not only would this be visually striking, but I think it’s a small enough group to organize and would care to join in in the protest.

Clippers courtside attendees already include outspoken individuals Billy Crystal, Bill Simmons, Jessica Alba, and Adam McKay (director of the movie Anchorman, has already declined his future option for season tickets). Which leads to the next party to get involved in this exodus: marketing partnerships and sponsors. It’s your turn to step up and decline business with the Clippers.

Most sponsorship arrangements always maintain a moralities clause, and this is a perfect opportunity to exercise such clause. Not only will this further vacate courtside seats (many given to corporate sponsors), but it also hurts the Clippers organization and ultimately the owner’s pockets.

The best part is that it could have a lasting effect for seasons to come, which is worth a few more marks in my Donald Sterling “pain scale.” (Has anyone trademarked that yet? Consider it trademarked here and now.)

FREE CONCESSIONS (3.8, but not really)
This was the first idea I had, everyone was so concerned about the players, but I took it a level further: What about staff, trainers, adjunct staff who still call Donald Sterling their boss? How do less heralded employees of color feel?

He, after all, still signs their paychecks as well. Instead of not attending the game (which I already stated would be unlikely) why not really take Sterling to the bank by giving away concessions, parking and just about anything else as a sign of protest?

Sure it’s borderline theft. But it’s non-violent, and it would send a message. This was hands down my favorite brainchild from this article, until I realized the Clippers are but mere tenants in a Staples Center that is owned by AEG Live. With that epiphany, I realized that likely concessions and additional in-game revenues would be exclusive or mutually negotiated by AEG; and AEG isn’t the one that’s under scrutiny here. So although I wish it was feasible, this actually scores a “0” realistically.

All possibilities considered this is a serious topic. Donald Sterling’s reputation as a suspect and racially inappropriate owner has been well discussed in private circles. This incident is merely the first public event where it was too transparent to sweep out of public view.

As much as I think Sterling should be removed because of his bigotry, I agree with NBA team owner Mark Cuban as to whether we should set the precedent of forced removal from NBA ownership or penalize an individual for personal beliefs said in private conversations.

All eyes will be on the NBA today; the commissioner’s office has said they will rule on the subject come 2 p.m. Tuesday (April 29th) and the Los Angeles Clippers prepare for another game to be played in their home arena.

My prediction? Sterling previously settled in 1984 with the NBA for moving the Clippers franchise from San Diego to Los Angeles without permission. Originally penalized $25 million, they settled at $6 million.

Adjusted for inflation $6 million would be about $13.25 million in 2014. I think retribution begins with a fine of that magnitude, a suspension from all NBA events and a public apology and commitment to seek counseling.

Only time will tell if Sterling cares enough for the Clippers to ride out this wave of negative publicity and try to repair it. But for a man with $1.9 billion dollars in other “hobbies,” I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few months he sells to another owner as a form of atonement; buying into another billionaire’s playground – I don’t think he owns a yacht, yet.

Follow Tim on
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