Clippers ask long-time fan Clipper Darrell to stop using that name

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This is about brand image and money getting in the way of passion. It’s about misguided loyalty. It’s about the Clippers still being the Clippers.

You know Darrell Baily as Clipper Darrell — the most passionate, long-time fan the Clippers have ever had. The guy with the blue-and-red suit (and car to match). He was the face of the Clippers fans and was there when this team sucked for years. He had better presence and higher positive feelings among fans than the team.

Truth be told, Clipper management never really loved him — they saw him as loudmouth, an embarrassment, a guy out for himself. But they never really did much about it.

Until the last few weeks. Here is the most unbiased account of what happened, via Fishbowl L.A.

Carl Lahr, senior vice president of marketing and sales, eventually returned Bailey’s call last week and informed him that the organization didn’t need him doing stories or speaking to the media on behalf of the team.

“We got to talking and I said the way I feel, you don’t want Clipper Darrell no more,” Bailey told FishbowlLA Wednesday. “You want Darrell Bailey back. They said, ‘You would do that?’”

According to Bailey, the Clippers offered him an additional free season ticket if he dropped the Clipper nickname.

I spoke briefly with Baily Wednesday night but he did not want to go on the record about this right now. Suffice to say the issue is not over.

Here is what Baily said on his Web Site.

It is with great sadness that I must report to all those in NBA NATION that I have been told by Clipper management they no longer want me to be Clipper Darrell, a name that was given to me by the media because of my unwavering support and team spirit. I am devastated!!!!

I have been a season ticket holder for over a decade and a FAN for over 15 years and have dedicated a major part of my life to support the Clipper organization and it’s players no matter what the season’s outcome.…. I’ve taken seriously the mantra of being “Clipper Darrell” in performing community service, mentoring young children and my participation in outreach programs. I’ve appreciated the struggles of the team to overcome obstacles as I’ve done in my life.

That last part is where the Clippers say they have an issue. While privately they have told Baily he was an embarrassment, publically they feel he is trying to make money off the now-valuable Clipper name. Here is what they said in a released statement (read the whole thing at the Orange County Register).

“The Clippers have done absolutely nothing wrong or inappropriate as it concerns Darrell Bailey. His claims are absurd and unfounded. He has never been an employee or representative of the Clippers organization, and therefore cannot be terminated. The Clippers have never engaged Mr. Bailey’s services. When he has been in need, the organization has regularly provided him a seat for games. No good deed goes unpunished….

“We hold all of our fans in the highest esteem and we have been patient and generous with Mr. Bailey. He has not returned our support in an honorable way. He is not actually a fan of the Clippers, but a fan of what he can make off of the Clippers. We are no longer interested in that kind of association with him, and that is why we accepted his offer to remove our team name from his stage name.”

That didn’t sound petty at all.

Blake Griffin and Chris Paul had tweets up in support of Baily, but they were taken down by Thursday morning.

My two cents — while the Clippers are a very good team on the court, they still show you that they are the old Clippers off it at times.

They didn’t push hard for Baily to stop being the face of the fans until they had a lot of fans and didn’t need him. If you think this is about money for Baily you don’t know him — he has spent far, far more on tickets, on getting clothes made and his car painted, on gas and everything else than he will ever come close to making back on a few T-shirts. The Clippers could have found a way to partner with him, to actually bring him in, but that’s not what they wanted.

Baily was far, far less an embarrassment to the Clipper franchise than the owner has been over the last decade.

Clipper Darrell — which is what he’ll always be to me — started doing this out of passion. A love of the team and passion he provided when they didn’t deserve it from fans, and he stuck with them. If now he can make a few bucks off the persona he created, so what? To block him is petty and small. But it’s vintage old Clippers.