Agents split on impact Donald Sterling’s racial comments could affect Clippers’ ability to attract free agents

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul (3) dribbles against Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson (11) in the second quarter during Game 4 of their Western Conference NBA playoff game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. on Sunday, April 27, 2014.  (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul (3) dribbles against Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson (11) in the second quarter during Game 4 of their Western Conference NBA playoff game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. on Sunday, April 27, 2014. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

The NBA provided united outrage over racial remarks attributed to Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

But will that prove enough to convince potential free agents to refuse to sign with the Clippers?

“This will have a gigantic impact,” said an agent representing a flurry of NBA players, requesting anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the story. “Why would anyone want to have their player playing in that environment? You can’t succeed in a toxic situation. If the guy at the top of your organization is a piece of scum that everybody hates, you can’t win in that culture. It’s impossible. They’re going to realize that and most players won’t go there.”

Lakers stars of the current (Kobe Bryant) and past (James Worthy, Magic Johnson) were among many that suggested they would not play for Sterling after an audio recording released by TMZ revealed the Clippers owner making racially charged remarks. Sterling told both the woman not to post a picture of herself with Magic Johnson on Instagram and not to allow black people to go with her to Clippers games.

But another NBA agent believed it’s far too early in assessing what Sterling’s remarks will affect the free agency process for a number of factors, including the Clippers’ talent-laden roster and what punishment the NBA will hand down to Sterling.

“There’s a sense that among the guys I spoke to white, black or European that it’s disgusting,” the agent said, who also requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic. “But it’s too early to say. If it turns out those were his words and weren’t spliced and diced and the NBA punishes Sterling, it could be a non issue.”

Sterling, who has presided over the Clippers’ franchise for 30 years, has had several documented racial incidents.

In 2009, Sterling agreed to pay $2.73 million to settle government allegations that he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics, blacks and families with children in Koreatown. Former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor filed a lawsuit that same year accusing the owner of having “a vision of a Southern plantation-type structure” within the Clippers organization.

Yet, the Clippers field a All-Star laden roster in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and coach Doc Rivers. Why is Sterling’s latest incident any different?

“The reason that this is different is in the past it was all hearsay,” one agent said. “Some people sued him. Some people said he said some things that were disparaging. Now you’re actually hearing a voice recording of a man going off on African Americans. There’s no denying that.”


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