Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is in some hot water after audio tapes released over the weekend allegedly captured Sterling chastising his biracial girlfriend about racial alliances after she posted a photo on Instagram with former Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson. Sterling’s girlfriend, V. Stiviano, can be heard pleading with Sterling to accept her allegiance with minorities while a voice presumed to be Sterling’s makes several stern remarks about not publicizing her relationships with Black people. “Why are you taking pictures with minorities?” Why?” the male voice is heard saying. The audio tape, which contains a lengthy dialogue between the two about race, has caused a serious stir within National Basketball Association (NBA) circles. In the midst of the Clippers trying to win an NBA title, this adds more pressure to Clippers coach Doc Rivers and players such as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin as they battle a Golden State team in the opening round. With the majority of Clippers players being minorities, should the team boycott Sterling and protest against their owner? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: Financially, Sterling owns the team. But spiritually, the Clippers belong to the city of Los Angeles. Boycotting or sitting out games will hurt the city more than it hurts Sterling. The players owe it to the city and to the fans to continue playing regardless of any comments made by Sterling. After the season, the players can always revisit the situation but now is the time to focus while the team is in the middle of a playoff run. The conversation excerpt that detailed in the audio tape was obviously offensive and disturbing but the team has a mission right now and shouldn’t let an alleged audio recording dismantle that.
Green: How can you expect the players to refocus knowing they’re playing for an owner who thinks so poorly of them? I agree, the players should play for themselves and their fans. But, man it’s going to be hard to just push thus aside and focus on the game. We’re supposed to be out of the slave master days but Sterling’s alleged audio was a stiff reminder that times haven’t changed that much. The NBA has grown into a predominantly minority league so the Clippers wouldn’t be alone in their protest. LeBron James has already gone on record discussing his feelings and I’m sure he’s not alone. This might be the biggest gaffe that any professional sports owner has ever made. The league will most certainly handle it sternly should allegations prove true and the players should have every right to sit out in retaliation without being reprimanded.
Riley: Sterling’s presumed audio file is reason enough to protest and while we shouldn’t use him as a scapegoat for a bigger issue it still comes off as a horrendous episode. There’s racism in all facets of life and I’m sure some players on the Clippers team have probably encountered the same type of feelings behind closed doors. The city of Philadelphia forgave Riley Cooper for his insensitive words last summer but that was a player. You would think an actual owner, especially one who controls a franchise in a predominantly Black sport, would think differently about race. His remarks, if the tape proves to be him, should be felt throughout all sports and his words will probably get him run out of town before long. If Paul or Griffin issued a statement that they refused to play, could you blame them?