Clippers stage silent protest in storm over owner's alleged racist remarks
Comments attributed to owner cast long shadow over team in heavy defeat
Los Angeles Clippers players staged a silent protest and wore black apparel during a losing NBA play-off game on Sunday after racist remarks attributed to team owner Donald Sterling.
Sterling, the NBA’s longest-serving team owner after buying the Clippers in 1981, did not attend the heavy 118-97 defeat at the Golden State Warriors, but comments allegedly made by the 80-year-old billionaire cast a long shadow over the contest.
Players gathered at centre court in Oakland before a pre-game warm-up, removed their team warm-up shirts and left them on the floor, working out wearing shirts that were inside out and did not display the Clippers name or logo.
The Clippers ignored calls by some to boycott the game, but players wore black socks, shirts, wristbands or armbands.
“I wasn’t thrilled about it but if that’s what they want to do, that’s what they want to do,” Clippers coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers said.
Sterling was the talk of the basketball world and beyond after celebrity-watching website TMZ posted an audio recording on Saturday where a man is heard criticising his girlfriend, identified only as V. Stiviano, for posting photographs on the social media site Instagram of herself and black friends attending Clippers games.
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you are associating with black people. Do you have to?” the man, purportedly Sterling, says.
“You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in. You can do whatever you want. The little I ask is not to promote it on that... and not to bring them to my games.
“In your lousy... Instagrams you don’t have to have yourself walking with black people.”
That triggered an angry reaction from across the board, including US President Barack Obama.
The first African-American to be elected US president and also a well-known basketball fan, Obama condemned the comments as “ignorant” and “incredibly offensive.”