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Peterson: A moral dilemma for Clippers fans

Growing up, I went to Los Angeles Clippers games nearly every year with my family, rocking my Cuttino Mobley jersey, joining in “Let’s go Clippers, let’s go!” chants with Clipper Darrell and cheering on the likes of Sam Cassell, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman and Corey Maggette. I would consider myself a Clippers fan.

While I always knew that Clippers owner Donald Sterling was a terrible owner from a management perspective, I never really knew how he was as a person. Then on Friday night, TMZ released a recording of a person alleged to be Donald Sterling making extremely racist comments to his girlfriend — comments that have no place in this world and bring his position as the owner of a basketball franchise under serious questioning.

After hearing of Sterling’s comments, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers responded, “I don’t know if I’m surprised or not.” That, my friends, tells the whole story.

In 2006, Sterling paid $2.75 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed he and his wife made statements “indicating that African-Americans and Hispanics were not desirable tenants and that they preferred Korean tenants,” according to ESPN.

Then in 2009, after being fired as general manager of the Clippers, Elgin Baylor sued Sterling for wrongful termination, stating that Sterling had a “vision of a Southern plantation-type structure” for the Clippers, according to the Los Angeles Times. Baylor also accused Sterling of having a “pervasive and ongoing racist attitude.”

Clearly, the comments Sterling made are just a part of a history of racist actions. And yet, this man still runs an organization in a league that continually seeks to promote caring, equality and fairness. As offensive as Sterling’s comments were to me and NBA fans everywhere, I can’t even imagine how Clippers star players Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and Rivers feel after their boss directly targeted their race, in addition to other players, coaches, management and officials throughout the league.

Is there something that I’m missing here? Because I’m just not getting how Sterling has been allowed to be an owner for this long and why these issues did not come under greater question from the start — I didn’t even know about them until now. Maybe I just wasn’t following closely enough, but it seems like past incidents were simply ignored. If the NBA had previously dealt with Sterling’s actions, then it likely wouldn’t be in this situation.

However, the NBA didn’t act upon these issues before, and I’m not sure what they are capable of doing this time. The league’s owners essentially serve as bosses of the commissioner and it would be a giant move for new commissioner Adam Silver to suspend or remove Sterling now after former commissioner David Stern did not do so in the past.

But something must be done. These actions have gone on for far too long and, at least to my knowledge, with far less action, attention and discussion than needed. It’s sad to see Clippers players who have worked so hard toward the goal of winning an NBA championship be undermined and distracted by their owner in the most crucial time of the season. It’s far sadder to realize that racist actions and thoughts still exist throughout the world and in a big, supposedly sophisticated business that has thrilled and excited us for many years.

Sports have long been deeply involved with integration in society and have appeared to be so successful in this area as of late that sometimes we forget such thinking still exists.

Now I find myself in a difficult situation. By watching and rooting for a team that I love, I continue to support the business of a man whose thoughts and ideals sicken me. How do you cheer for a team without supporting the man who ultimately runs it? That will be the question for many Clippers fans as long as Sterling remains in charge.

It’s time for a precedent setting move by the NBA. During one of the greatest first rounds in recent memory, the thrilling action has been overshadowed by Sterling’s racist comments. It’s shocking and honestly saddening that Sterling’s racism was even tolerated in the first place, but it would be detestable to let this racism persist. Sterling must go.

Light has finally been shed on Sterling’s behavior and the basketball community demands a response. Your move, NBA.

Help Michael Peterson through his internal tug-of-war and send him an email at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu and Tweet him @mpetes93 to share whether you’ve been able to stay a Clippers fan.

About Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson is the football editor at The Stanford Daily. He has served as a beat reporter for football, baseball and men’s soccer and also does play-by-play broadcasting of baseball and men’s soccer for KZSU. Michael is a sophomore from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. majoring in computer science. To contact him, please email him at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.
  • Candid One

    The NBA owners are an old boys club. Donald Sterling is a ranking member and not their only poor citizen. How much of the CYA syndrome will inhibit them, lest their quasi-piety come back at them? “Something must be done” has a languid history for impetus among the great traditions of the human condition. Is the NBA really ready for due diligence? Stay tuned.