When news of Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist remarks broke initially, the players were considering all of their options in terms of ways to protest had the league not acted as swiftly as it did in issuing a lifetime ban as punishment.
There were talks of players boycotting playoff games, but it would have been extremely short-sighted and thankfully, the speed and the force with which Adam Silver reacted was enough to satisfy even those who were most angered by Sterling’s comments.
The league is moving as expeditiously as possible in terminating Sterling’s ownership of the Clippers, but it will take some time, and there will likely be one or more lawsuits involved before everything has been settled. Roger Mason Jr., vice president of the players’ union, wants to keep the pressure on in this regard, and has LeBron James on his side as one player who will reconsider a boycott if Sterling is still in place in an ownership role next season.
From a Showtime press release (via James Herbert of CBSSports.com):
“If it’s not handled by… the start of next season, I don’t see how we’re playing basketball,” Mason said. “I was just in the locker room with LeBron… At the end of the day, you know we have leaders. We have player reps, we’ve got executive committee members… Leaders of the teams, they’re all saying the same thing, ‘If this man is still in place, we ain’t playing’.”
Rome followed up: “So your guy LeBron, you think he would not play if Sterling were still in there when the [next] season started?”
“I was just in the locker room three or four days ago. LeBron and I talked about it,” Mason said. “He ain’t playing if Sterling is still an owner.”
Mason appeared on Jim Rome on Showtime, and the entire interview premiers on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.
It’s important for the players to have a strong voice like James be heard on the subject, and the sentiment is undoubtedly 100 percent sincere. But honestly, there’s no way it will come to this.
The NBA is committed to terminating Sterling’s ownership in the Clippers, and that includes the portion held by his estranged wife Shelly.
“Under the NBA Constitution, if a controlling owner’s interest is terminated by a 3/4 vote, all other team owners’ interests are automatically terminated as well,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said, responding to Shelly Sterling’s public comments via an official release. “It doesn’t matter whether the owners are related as is the case here. These are the rules to which all NBA owners agreed to as a condition of owning their team.”
It’s clear the league isn’t concerned about the potential legal battles that may be in store down the road. The directive is to resolve the Sterling situation completely by removing him as an owner, and to do so even if a lengthy fight in the court system awaits.
As long as that happens, there will be no reason for the players to boycott games. But it’s good for their feelings to continue to be expressed, and for the players union to keep the pressure on the NBA until the task of Sterling’s removal has been formally accomplished.