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The Los Angeles Clippers players have held a united front since audio allegedly of owner Donald Sterling making racist remarks was released on Friday.
On Sunday, they made a public show of solidarity in a silent protest against racism by coming out onto the court before the game against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena with their warm-up jerseys on inside out to hide the team logo.
Rather than having the Clippers’ logo emblazoned on the front, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and their teammates wore plain red as they walked out before the tipoff for Game 4 in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
In the crowd, Warriors fans held up signs that read: “Magic always welcome at Oracle,” and “No racism here.”
The statement comes after both TMZ and Deadspin obtained versions of audio remarks that see Sterling express displeasure to V. Stiviano, described as his girlfriend, about having “black people” attend Clipper games. Sterling, a Los Angeles real estate mogul, has been the subject of multiple housing discrimination lawsuits in years past.
Despite the protest, ABC and ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy expressed his wish that the players would do more. “The only action that is wrong is inaction or neutrality,” he said at the beginning of ABC’s broadcast of the game.
“I would like the players to make a statement about how racism has no place [here], or for them to sit on the bench for 15 minutes before the game.
“There are some things that are bigger than pursuing a championship. Making a stand on something that impacts society is more important,” he said.
Later in the first quarter Van Gundy went on to say: “I’ve heard some people say they can’t speak to it because their team told them not to. Are you kidding me? You’re a grown man, speak up for what you believe.”
Sterling agreed not to attend the game but his estranged wife, Rochelle Sterling, was sat courtside. She told ABC off-camera that she didn’t condone the statements or believe them, “I am not a racist and never have been.” The team is the most important thing to my family.”
She said she “didn’t know” if that was her husband’s voice on the tape but she does think there were parts cut out and plans to let the experts handle it.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver was also at the game. He has pledged that the league will move “extraordinarily quickly” in its investigation, and hopes to have the situation wrapped up “in the next few days.”
With the Clippers down by 23 points at one stage of the game, analyst Jalen Rose said during the halftime show: “That’s what happens when you have an owner like Donald Sterling who talks about his players like they are field workers that he allowed to live in the house.”
Rose went on to encourage “socially-conscious fans” to follow their team’s lead by turning their gear inside out. Love your team but despise your owners racist ways.”
Fellow commentator Bill Simmons reflected: “This is a really sad weekend for the NBA. The baggage that the Clippers have as a franchise is just this owner, he has always been a shadow lingering around this franchise, and for him to rear his ugly head this weekend… he might have changed this series. I think it is a disgrace and as a basketball fan, I feel sad.”
Clippers point guard Paul, who is also the president of the NBA Players Association, said in a statement on Saturday, “On behalf of the National Basketball Players Association, this is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively.
“We have asked Mayor Kevin Johnson to expand his responsibilities with the NBPA, to determine our response and our next steps. As players, we owe it to our teams and our fans to keep our focus on our game, the playoffs, and a drive to the Finals.”
Magic Johnson reiterated his opinion that Sterling shouldn’t own a team when he appeared on ABC’s NBA Countdown show on Sunday morning, saying: “He should stand up and say ‘I don’t want to own a team anymore,’ especially when you have African-Americans renting his apartments, coming to his games, playing for him and coaching for him.
“This is bad for everybody. This is bad for America. I’m really upset about it.”
The Clippers lost the game 97-118, making the series tied at 2-2. They will next play in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
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