Something about the Clippers sparked an emotional chord with the Lakers.
This did not involve outrage over the Clippers displaying posters that covered up the Lakers’ championship banners and retired jerseys. This did not entail the Lakers expressing resentment over the Clippers’ superior success. This focused on the reaction surrounding Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racially denigrating comments on an audio tape.
Former Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, forward A.C. Green, current guard Steve Nash and former forward Luke Walton represented a handful of both former and current NBA players going to L.A. City Hall on Tuesday to express their support for NBA commissioner Adam Silver punishing Sterling with a life-time ban.
“When you get this many Lakers to stand up for the Clippers,” Mayor Eric Garcetti quipped, “you know something big is happening in L.A.”
Indeed lots of big things were happening.
Beyond their first-round series with the Warriors going nip and tuck for the past week, the Clippers had to deal with the hurt and frustration that their owner would make such dismissively offensive comments. Sterling was heard on an audio tape, obtained both by TMZ and Deadspin, arguing with his girlfriend about posting a picture of herself with Lakers legend Magic Johnson on Instagram and for bringing black friends to Clippers games.
“It begs a bigger question,” Nash said. “If racism is a learned behavior, how long will it go on for? How long will people be taught to be bigoted, to discriminate, and to instill hatred in our communities? Let’s hope this is an opportunity for all of us as players, as former players, as a league, as a community, to help educate and help one take one step further in eradicating racism in our communities.”
For Sterling, his racist views go beyond what he said on a tape.
In 2009, Sterling paid $2.7 million to settle a lawsuit that accused him of practicing housing discrimination in various L.A.-based real estate properties to blacks, Hispanics and families with children. Former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against Sterling that likened his leadership to that of a Southern plaintation owner, a case a jury eventually rejected. Silver said the NBA never penalized Sterling beforehand because there was never definitive proof of guilt.
The NBA decided otherwise in the latest incident after its investigation confirmed Sterling was the man on the tape. Abdul-Jabbar said he was “thrilled” with Silver’s decision.
“We all started clapping because he handled it the right way,” the former Lakers center said. “I’m so happy that he did that. It’s going to be a new day here in the city and a whole lot of Clipper fans are going to have a whole lot more to smile about.”