Adam Silver makes Clippers boycott unnecessary

April 29, 2014

As the DSH noted in an article almost three years ago, the NBA hypocritically never cared enough to hold Donald Sterling accountable for years of disgusting conduct. But thanks to a brand new commissioner and Sterling’s most recent bumbling comments, the NBA was finally forced to do what they should have done years ago – oust the longtime owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

At approximately 11:15 am Pacific Time (2:15 pm Eastern) NBA Commissioner Adam Silver dropped the hammer on Clippers owner Donald Sterling after investigating his racist and bizarre comments that were originally publicized by TMZ last Friday.

“I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA. Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices. He may not participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team. He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings or participating in any other league activity."

In addition to the lifetime ban, Silver fined the Clippers owner $2.5 million, “the maximum allowable amount under the NBA constitution."

But Silver went even further and addressed the issue of Sterling’s continued ownership interest in the Los Angeles Clippers.

“I will urge the Board of Governors to exercise the authority to force a sale of the team and will do everything in my power to assure that that happens,” said Silver.  

Silver later clarified that the NBA owners have the authority under the NBA constitution to force out the longtime Clippers owner if a ¾ majority of the owners vote to do so. In this instance, that would mean 22 out of the 29 other owners would have to vote for a forced sale of Los Angeles Clippers.

When Silver was later questioned about the likelihood of persuading 3/4 of the owners to vote against Sterling in this matter, Silver acknowledged that while he had spoken with several owners he had not taken a "poll" to confirm the position of each owner. Nonetheless, Silver expressed confidence that Sterling's days were numbered. "I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him."

Prior to Game 4 of the Clippers-Warriors series, there were many who suggested that the Clippers players should have boycotted playing in the game at all. To many of these critics (but not all), the symbolic protest made by the Clippers players prior to Game 4 on Sunday afternoon, in which the players wore their warm up shirts inside out (to hide the "Clippers" name) and wore black socks and wristbands, was at best, a lost opportunity, and at worst, the weak effort of sellout players.

Some of this was the unimpressive bluster of players like Kobe Bryant., Chauncey Billups, George Hill, and Stephen Jackson -- all of whom asserted that THEY would have the courage to immediately stop playing for Sterling if THEY were on the Clippers, regardless of the playoff implications. Of course, such tough words were easy to speak from the sidelines.

Others, like Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson called for a fan boycott of Game 5.

“As an African-American man that’s a fan of the game of basketball and knows its history and knows what’s right and what’s wrong, I would not come to the game tomorrow," proclaimed Jackson. "I believe if it was me, I wouldn’t come to the game. I believe as fans, the loudest statement that they can make as fans is to not show up to [Game 5].” This suggestion was also echoed by former NBA player Mychal Thompson - whose son Klay plays for the Warriors.

Both Jackson's and Thompson's advice, however heartfelt, ultimately came across as self-serving, as both of them are deeply invested in helping the Warriors defeat the Clippers in Game 5. Any reduction in the Clippers' homecourt advantage certainly would help provide Golden State with an unearned benefit.

What many of those demanding a boycott seemed to miss, was that a league-wide response was far more appropriate than placing the onus for political action solely on the LA Clippers or their fans.

Yet the underlying issue raised by the "boycott" discussion should not be ducked, even now after commissioner Silver's firm decision. After all, Donald Sterling will still profit from any money fans spend on the Clippers until he is officially forced to sell the team. Therefore, some will still reasonably ask if a call for a boycott of Clippers games is still relevant.

The simple fact is that an "economic" boycott is hardly an effective tool of resistance at this juncture. 

Donald Sterling has nearly $2 billion in assets and is financially not going to be greatly impacted by anything that the fans or players do during this year's playoffs. In reality, the greater impact has already been made by the Clippers massive loss of all of its corporate sponsors. Sterling's remaining future is truly in the hands of the other 29 owners in the NBA, and even then you can bet Sterling will walk away with a huge profit from selling the team.

Furthermore, let’s think about this "boycott the game" suggestion in a different way. According to TMZ’s audiotape, Donald Sterling does not want Magic Johnson, African Americans, and perhaps minorities in general to come to the game. It makes him uncomfortable. So now the great cry of rebellion is to…Do exactly as that bigot requests and not show up?

To hell with that. As a minority myself, I would show up loud and proud and make Staples Center the epicenter of my anti-Sterling vitriol. I can think of nothing sweeter than watching the Clippers succeed at the highest levels for the first time in their history – and Donald Sterling not only being denied the right to partake in the glory but actually being the source of ridicule all the while.

There were multiple strategies of resistance in the heyday of Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s in the United States. The most well-known was exemplified during the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

When an NAACP secretary named Rosa Parks was asked to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, she refused. This act of defiance, long in the planning by local leaders, inspired African Americans in the area to stop using the Montgomery buses altogether. The organization in charge of the movement was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and its appointed leader was a 26-year old reverend named Martin Luther King Jr.

The strategy behind the protest was that, more than the public shame, the actual economic impact (in lost bus fare and lost work time for employers of African Americans who were no longer taking the bus) would induce the city of Montgomery to change this practice. Few remember however, that as galvanizing as the boycott was to the African American community, in itself it was not responsible for the change. Eventually, it was a ruling by the United Supreme Court that actually ended the practice.

A lesser known form of protest against segregation also took place in the South during the Civil Rights era as well. Groups of northern students, white and black, decided that they would bus down to the segregated South and forcefully integrate it. Thus, these brave black and white students would enter a “White’s Only” establishment, sit down, and simply refuse to move. These people were often the object of anger and physical abuse…and ultimately were arrested for “breaking the law” of the time. These “sit-ins” were followed by forcefully integrated bus rides throughout the South. The students came to be known as Freedom Riders.

There is an appealing aggressiveness to the Freedom Riders attitude: you may have thought this was YOUR store or YOUR bus where you can do whatever you want, but my very presence will be a reminder to you that it really isn't. Deal with it.

I would propose that Clippers fans go to the game and turn it into the loudest and proudest Anti-Sterling Sit-In rally imaginable. If the Clippers are fortunate enough to win, this tradition should continue at every home game during the playoffs. Fans should be prepared with hostile chants and signs to make it clear that the only one who doesn’t belong in Staples Center is Donald Sterling, not Clippers fans, players, or coaches. 

In fact, today's decision by Adam Silver affirms to Clippers fans that the NBA wants you at the games, not Donald Sterling -- who they have quite literally banned from even showing up. So take back the city and take back the team from that jerk, it is long past time.

By Manish Pandya
Editor for

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