UnMuzzled: A Very Sticky Situation
Over the past few years the Los Angeles Clippers have been one of the biggest feel good stories in the NBA.
This is a franchise that not only was perennially one of the worst in the league; it also had to share the spotlight with the Lakers meaning basically the Clippers didn’t get any spotlight at all. But now, behind superstars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, the Clippers have transformed into one of the league’s best. Right now they stand tied at two games apiece with the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, but unfortunately they have other issues weighing on their minds.
TMZ Sports released an audio file this past Saturday in which Clippers' owner Donald Sterling made several racist remarks regarding African Americans. One person mentioned was none other than Laker great and mega figure in the Los Angeles area, Magic Johnson.
Within hours the story was everywhere. Players were voicing their opinions, the media was weighing in, and the NBA brass was scrambling to get the situation under control.
The idea of the Clippers' players boycotting their next game was thrown around and Doc Rivers was asked if this would make him want to leave the team at years end. Needless to say this story quickly cast a very dark cloud over what should be a very exciting time for the Clippers franchise.
Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling from attending game four of the series that was held on Sunday at Golden State. Little had been said by the Clippers' players leading up to the game, but they made their opinion on the matter well known by wearing their warm-ups inside out so the word Clippers could not be seen. It was hard not to wonder if the players' performances were affected by the story as the Warriors dominated the game.
The decision by Silver to ban Sterling from this game was an obvious one, but his job is only going to get harder from here.
It’s been only a couple of days and the backlash has already been enormous. Everyone from Michael Jordan to Barack Obama has weighed in on the issue, all with the same disgust.
It should go without saying that Sterling should be banned for the entirety of the playoffs, but then what? How could a man that is clearly and outspokenly racist own and operate a team, especially one in a game with such deeps roots in African American culture here is this country?
The league needs to act swiftly and decisively in this matter to show that opinions like this not only have zero place in the NBA, but in American culture, period.
However, this situation is not nearly as easy as it would be if Sterling worked for a franchise rather than owning one.
There is no precedent regarding a situation like this but it seems as though the NBA only really has one option. They will have to find a way to force Sterling to sell the team or else things will get very messy, very quickly. I can’t imagine a single player or coach choosing to sign with the Clippers while Sterling is still in charge, meaning either he goes or the franchise becomes the proverbial leper of the league.
The pivotal Game five of this series is tomorrow night, back in Los Angeles. The Clippers have overcome many obstacles to get to where they are, this may just be the toughest yet.