Ever since news of Donald Sterling’s purported rant surfaced via TMZ late Friday night, countless articles, tweets, and comments have been released into the ether regarding what the NBA should (or could) do, what the Clippers’ players should do, what sponsors should do, and what Clippers fans should do in the wake of all the controversy. To no one’s surprise, people everywhere have opinions of all kinds regarding what they think Clipper fans should do, ranging from sensible to flat-out incoherent solutions to all of this. My personal dilemma as a Clipper fan is whether or not to go to Tuesday night’s game against the Warriors.
ESPN, usually among the first to report on these sorts of things, didn’t mention the story until Saturday afternoon. Considering that and considering the reputation of the outlet that broke the story (along with the fact that I felt like the boy who told “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” in Eight Men Out), I felt like, as a fan, it was too soon to have a concrete opinion on the story, but that I would eventually make up my mind and decide if and how I would take a stand.
I still don’t know what to do.
I’ve been a Clipper fan for fourteen years, and that’s all I have to say for people to understand the suffering (purely in trivial basketball matters) I’ve experienced over that span of time. I’m not just an avid sports fan, but I’m a person who views sports through a romantic and poetic lens. I am just as big a fan of Chris Paul’s ability to make defenses look like they’re playing on a TV delay as I am of Ogden Nash’s 1949 poem “Line-Up for Yesterday: An ABC of Baseball Immortals.”
I bought tickets for tomorrow night’s Game 5 at Staples Center after the Clippers lost Game 1 to the Warriors. When I heard the initial suggestions made by former players, sports personalities, and fans regarding whether to boycott the game or use some form of protest to exert pressure on Sterling or the NBA to make a radical (and crowd-pleasing) change, the only opinion that resonated with me was Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski’s article that said Sterling should be the NBA’s problem to deal with, and not Chris Paul’s or Doc Rivers’. Wojnarowski said that, as President of the NBA Player’s Union, Paul should defer responsibility by saying, “This is the owners’ and commissioner’s mess, and they need to deal with it.”
Wojnarowski makes valid and cogent arguments for why the NBA—and not the players—should deal with this. He made no mention of what he thinks fans should do, but because I was wearing my red and blue qsports fan goggles, I initially read his article as, “The Clippers Should Continue to Play and Focus on Winning a Title and Their Fans Should Continue to Support Them in These Trying Times Because NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Must and Will Get Rid of This Bigot.” Or something along those lines.
For most of Saturday and Sunday and Monday morning, I’ve heard the opinions of other people I highly respect and admire, such as Magic Johnson, Colin Cowherd, Bill Simmons, and many personalities in local sports radio here in Los Angeles. I wasn’t waiting for these people to voice their opinions because I’m a spineless person with no moral code or strong convictions, but because, whether we want to admit it or not, we all surround ourselves with people (physically or otherwise) that provide us some sort of barometer that can affect our opinions in some form (whether it be authors, pundits, or even family members). These and other people not only provide me with insight into the inner-circles of the NBA, but their elaborate opinions often conflict with one another and raise even broader questions about race in America and what my role–if any–in all of this is or what it should be.
As I’ve had that internal debate these past few days and as I’ve tried to figure out what I should do as a fan Tuesday night, I’ve changed my opinion several times. Throughout the weekend, I’ve asked myself the following questions and pondered these following thoughts, among many others:
Why should I and other Clipper fans suffer for what one idiot says?
This is much bigger and important than sports, so I should react accordingly, even as an avid fan.
I’m a fan of the players and coaches, so shouldn’t I go to support them?
How would boycotting impact working-class employees who work at Staples Center?
By boycotting the game, I’m helping the players in the short term, but hurting them in the big picture by supporting institutional racism.
How much would a boycott affect a man who’s net north is $1.3 billion?
Is the change that people want viable?
Do people really have the power to spearhead institutional changes, or is it all a fallacy?
Can’t sponsors have a bigger impact for change than fans? After all, money talks.
There have been many more questions and thoughts running through my head these last few days, and they’ve all factored into my dilemma.
I also think something historic could happen tomorrow night, though the chances of that happening are slim. But then again, I don’t think anyone attending the men’s 200-meter race in the 1968 Olympics figured they’d see Tommie Smith and John Carlos make the impact they did when they opted to make the Black Power salute during their medal ceremony. And if anything of that nature happens, I want to be there.
As companies such as KIA, Car Max, Red Bull, and Corona announced Monday morning they’d be suspending their sponsorship of the Clippers, it seems like there’s an increased pressure on the NBA to penalize Sterling by removing him as owner, though there isn’t a precedent that would dictate whether that’s a viable possibility. Not even the experts agree on how much power the NBA has constitutionally to force a person to sell one of their assets because they were illegally recorded voicing their personal opinions–regardless of how disgusting said opinions may be.
There are also expected to be protests by minority groups outside Staples Center before the game and the person scheduled to sing the national anthem prior to the game has dropped out in protest. It seems everyone is making decisions and pontificating about what me and 19,000 other Clipper fans should do tomorrow night.
And I still don’t know what to do.