LA Clippers protest at owner’s alleged racist slur
Donald Sterling barred from attending games after compromising recordings surface
In a sign of solidarity players shed their warm-up jackets together before the game and placed them in a pile at midcourt, revealing red, long-sleeved team shirts worn inside out to obscure the team’s name. Photograph Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
The Los Angeles Clippers, reacting to recordings of racist remarks attributed to Donald Sterling, the team’s owner, took the court for their NBA play-off game Sunday with a statement, one of both fashion and politics. In a silent sign of solidarity, players shed their warm-up jackets together before the game and placed them in a pile at midcourt, revealing red, long-sleeved team shirts worn inside out to obscure the team’s name. And while they wore the Clippers’ blue jerseys during the game, each player also wore black socks and black wristbands.
With her husband barred from attending the game while the NBA investigates the remarks, Sterling’s wife of more than 50 years, Rochelle, sat courtside, across from the Clippers’ bench. She applauded the play of the Los Angeles players.
The recordings of the racist remarks bounced around the globe Sunday like viral aftershocks, rattling the league’s leadership, overshadowing its playoff games and even receiving the attention of President Barack Obama in Malaysia. But the epicenter was at Oracle Arena, where the Clippers played the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.
The Warriors jumped to a huge first-quarter lead, on their way to a 118-97 victory that tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece. Players later said that the controversy surrounding Sterling had little effect on the game’s result, but the atmosphere was charged.
The comments attributed to Sterling have ignited a firestorm in the NBA, in which roughly three-quarters of players are black and nearly every owner is white. That it should involve a team based in Los Angeles, a diverse city with its own history of racial problems, but one that has long revered black athletes across the spectrum of sports, only added long threads of complex context.
Audio, first released by the website TMZ, purportedly catches Sterling arguing with a female friend, identified as V. Stiviano, criticizing her for posting pictures of herself online with black men, including basketball legend and Los Angeles icon Magic Johnson.
“Don’t put him on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me,” the male voice said. “And don’t bring him to my games. Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
The crowd’s cheers as the Warriors burst toward a blowout victory were interrupted at least once by an anti-Sterling chant. A black fan held a sign over his head that read, “I’m black,” while a white man next to him held one that said, “I brought a black guy to the game.”