The fallout from racist remarks allegedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling cast a shadow over the second weekend of the NBA playoffs, and though league commissioner Adam Silver has yet to decide the long-tenured owner’s fate, those that follow the game – and those who play it for a living – have already rendered their judgment.
President Barack Obama, a prominent fan, called Sterling’s comments “incredibly offensive,” and added that he believed the league would act swiftly to address them.
“The NBA is a league that is beloved by fans all across the country. It’s got an awful lot of African-American players,” Obama said during a press conference in Malaysia. “And I suspect the NBA is going to be deeply concerned in resolving this.”
Other famous fans took a decidedly different tone.
“Fuck you. That simple, that easy. If I was a Clippers fan, I wouldn’t be one anymore. If I was a Clipper player, you wouldn’t see me on the court anymore in that uniform,” Lil Wayne said in a video message. “An apology wouldn’t work for me … I’d stand up for myself, and I’d understand that pride and respect isn’t a team sport. …The person that owns the team I’m playing for has no respect for me or my people.”
Snoop Dogg echoed those sentiments (and that F-Bomb) in a video message of his own, calling Sterling a “racist piece of shit,” a summation that earned praise from former Rage Against The Machine guitarist, and current E Street Band member, Tom Morello:
“Snoop Dogg’s response to Donald Sterling’s racist remarks may not be in the spirit of Dr. King,” he wrote on Twitter, “but it’s pretty awesome.”
Others had a more measured reaction. Anchorman director Adam McKay said he’d be giving up his season tickets to Clippers games, and the Roots’ Questlove hoped that the team would refuse to suit up for Sterling.
That option was reportedly in play, as Clippers’ guard Chris Paul told ESPN that the team held a meeting on Saturday in which they weighed a boycott.
“We talked about everything,” Paul said. “We’re going to be one; everything we do, we do it together.”
Instead, the Clippers opted to make several silent statements.
Before Sunday’s playoff game against the Golden State Warriors (a game Sterling did not attend), they warmed up with shirts turned inside out, so as not to display the team’s logo, and during the game, they wore black socks, wristbands and sleeves. The Portland Trailblazers and Houston Rockets later wore black socks during their game, in a show of solidarity.
“I wanted to do something to support our brothers,” Blazers star LaMarcus Aldridge said.
Prominent NBA players LeBron James and Kobe Bryant also expressed their outrage over Sterling’s remarks, with reigning-MVP James saying “if the reports are true … there’s no room for Donald Sterling in our league.”
The controversy began Friday, when TMZ published an audio recording of a man believed to be Sterling reprimanding his girlfriend for posing with NBA great Magic Johnson on Instagram and for “associating with black people.”
On Sunday, sports site Deadspin posted a longer version of the recording, where Sterling allegedly says of Clippers players – the majority of whom are black – “I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses.”
In a statement, the Clippers said that “what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect [Sterling’s] views, beliefs or feelings.” The team also called into question the authenticity of audio, saying that the woman heard on the tape is currently being sued by the Sterling family, after they claimed she embezzled more than $1.8 million from them.
Sterling, who made his fortune in real estate, was previously sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for discriminatory rental policies against minorities at several apartment complexes he owns in Los Angeles. Though he did not admit guilt, Sterling did agree to pay a record $2.725 million to settle the suit.
According to reports, the NBA is currently investigating the tape, and commissioner Silver is expected to dish out some form of discipline before the Clippers/Warriors series continues in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Sacramento mayor – and former NBA All-Star – Kevin Johnson met with the commissioner on behalf of the Players Association, and said on Sunday that those players want the league to ban Sterling from attending future playoff games and levy a severe punishment against him.
If the NBA manages to authenticate the tape, most believe the punishment against Sterling will be severe, indeed.
“Donald Sterling has no idea what he’s wrought here. People are up in arms,” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said in an interview with Good Morning America. “If that tape is authenticated … there are going to have to be sanctions. [Or] a suspension so severe that he will then think about stepping down.”