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The longer the Clippers stay in the playoffs, the more the media spotlight will remain fixated on the team’s racist owner. That’s a good thing.
But now that recordings have surfaced of the Clippers’ owner, Donald Sterling, making racist remarks, the question on everyone’s mind is: How should we respond?
Each of the players also wore black socks, and a couple of other teams did the same yesterday, as another form of silent protest against Sterling.
It was the best they could do. They didn’t do anything wrong. The players are the biggest victim in all of this. Boycotting the game would’ve hurt them financially, and put the players in the center of the scandal instead of Sterling himself. Better for them to show their disapproval, do their jobs and hope the league can settle this situation soon.
Sponsors are responding in the only way they can, by packing up and leaving.
So, what are fans to do?
Fans have been encouraged not to buy tickets to the next playoff game, or to stay at home if they’ve already bought tickets. The idea being that losing a few thousand dollars on the game might hurt Sterling, who is worth $1.9 billion.
I am here to tell you to continue to support the team. Not because pulling support would hurt the players more than Sterling, though it would. I’m not even saying root for them forever regardless of their owner. I’m saying that the longer the Clippers stay in the playoffs, the more the media spotlight will stay on Sterling.
The media is the only tool we have against Sterling at the moment. The league will need to take time to investigate the validity of the audio recordings and then figure out what power it has. It won’t be able to force Sterling to sell the team, and it won’t really be able to fine him either (because how do you say, “You can be racist as long as you’re willing to pay a certain amount every time you get caught on tape?”), so the league’s only resource will be a long-term suspension. In this instance, a suspension essentially means that Sterling will have to watch games from home. Not much of a punishment.
The goal should be make to Sterling as uncomfortable as possible for as long as possible, so that he sees selling the team as his only recourse. The team, which will continue to wear black socks, will continue to embarrass its owner. Players will all ask for their release in the offseason if Sterling isn’t gone, and they can be vocal about that right now.
The last thing this story needs, however, is a reason to fade away. If the season ends for the Clippers, if players disappear into their year-end vacations and the focus inevitably moves to the remaining teams, Sterling will be able to ride this out. The media will pack up and leave his doorstep. The conversation will fade away.
So, root for the Clippers.
Root for the players taking a stand and embarrassing their team’s owner. Root for a racist to be held up in front of the world for scrutiny for as long as possible. It may be the only form of punishment that actually makes Sterling think twice about his views.
Buy a ticket to Game 5 and don’t feel bad about it. Cheer louder than you ever have. If the team wins, rejoice in the players’ small accomplishment and their larger symbolic win.