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Berry Tramel  

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Clippers: How about looking in the mirror

by Berry Tramel Modified: April 29, 2014 at 9:45 am •  Published: April 29, 2014

Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul, left, talks to head coach Doc Rivers during the first half in Game 4 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, April 27, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul, left, talks to head coach Doc Rivers during the first half in Game 4 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, April 27, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Players, coaches, administrators, fans. All have condemned the comments attributed to Clippers owner Donald Sterling in a TMZ report over the weekend. No one has come to Sterling’s defense.

Sterling is a despicable man, much less sports franchise owner. He’s got a long history of being accused of racial discrimination and sexual harassment. The federal government sued him for unfair housing practices. I wrote about Sterling and his nonsense five years ago, which you can read here. If little old me in Oklahoma, a NBA novice back then, knew all about Sterling, everyone connected to the league should have known.

Which makes the outrage from Clipper coaches and players a little over the top.

The Clippers took to center court Sunday in Oakland and dropped their warmup shirts. The message was clear. They find their owner reprehensible.

And I feel for some of the Clippers. Jared Dudley and Willie Green and J.J. Redick arrived in recent trades. They had no say in the matter.

But most of the team? Chris Paul signed a contract extension with the Clippers last summer. Blake Griffin signed a contract extension with the Clippers, effective this season. DeAndre Jordan signed a contract extension with the Clippers in 2011.

Jamal Crawford signed as a free agent with the Clippers in July 2012. Matt Barnes signed as a free agent with the Clippers in September 2012. Darren Collison signed as a free agent with the Clippers in July 2013. Big Baby Davis and Danny Granger signed as free agents with the Clippers this February.

All made the conscious decision to play basketball for Donald Sterling. And there was no doubt how he stands on race.  He’s a bigot. Anyone who cared to know did know, long before TMZ on Saturday. If you didn’t know, you didn’t care. So to now act like Sterling has committed some heinous act against his team, well, that doesn’t hold.

But the worst is reserved for coach Doc Rivers. Players, sometimes they don’t know about the ownerships of their franchises. They don’t care, or they’re not mature enough to know they should care. Maybe they just show up to play and cash checks. But coaches? Coaches with the standing of Rivers?

Doc Rivers absolutely knew what kind of man Donald Sterling was. He also knew what kind of roster Sterling had. So Rivers left the Boston Celtics after last season, got out of a contract, in fact, and joined up with the Clippers.

Where was the outrage then? Where was the consternation over working for a man with these kinds of racial views? If you ever wonder how good of ballplayers are Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, remember Doc Rivers and Donald Sterling. Rivers was willing to look past Sterling’s prejudice to coach such talent.

Which is fine. No one begrudges Rivers for that. Unless he starts playing the outrage card. Unless he starts acting like it’s a major thing for Sterling to be talking the trash he was talking on the TMZ audio. What Sterling said was new only in detail. Elgin Baylor worked for Sterling for 20 years and tried to tell the world what kind of man was Sterling. Baron Davis played point guard for Sterling and told everyone what he went through.

Commissioners David Stern and Adam Silver, and owners over the years, I cut them some slack. An owner who’s a quack can be difficult to remove. Players who were drafted onto or traded to the Clippers, they deserve sympathy. The rules of the game prohibit much movement.

But players who willingly sign to play for Sterling? A coach who leaves one of the most regal jobs in sport to work for Sterling? Sorry. They have no standing to claim surprise or umbrage.

Doc Rivers and a bunch of his players hopped aboard the Sterling ship and were glad to do so, when the whole world knew what kind of man he was.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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