Every week a new development has risen relating to Donald Sterling. In the latest turn in what has been a month-long reaction to comments made by the Clippers owner, it has been announced that LeBron James and other NBA stars would take a seat next season if Sterling was still involved with the Clippers franchise.
On Jim Rome’s program on Showtime program, vice president of the NBA Players Association Roger Mason made it clear that if Sterling was still in control of the Los Angeles Clippers at the beginning of next season, James and other players would sit out in protest during the 2014-15 campaign.
While it’s understandable why James would want to sideline his talents next year if Sterling is still in power in L.A., is the threat of a boycott and potential “lockout” of the league’s top stars warranted?
No. Not even a little.
There is no question that the things Sterling said were hateful, racist and downright sleazy, and it’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate that an owner and leader of in one of America’s most diverse sporting leagues thinks the way he does. Anger and frustration is certainly justified.
But before we think of the players taking a stand against intolerance and bigotry, let’s trek back to the 2011-2012 season, the NBA’s most recent lockout year. While league officials battled with NBA players and owners trying to settle on a Collective Bargaining Agreement, league popularity took a minor hit, arena workers were left with uncertainty and no paychecks and fans were left frustrated.
Is it acceptable that Sterling made those remarks? Absolutely not. But the cost of a boycott could be so much greater than the ramblings of an 80-year-old bigot.
Is a protest worth the uncertainty that arena workers and other NBA staff members will struggle with for a second time in the past four years?
Is it worth sitting out for a few games, months or even an entire season if Sterling isn’t ousted, potentially angering fans and losing the interest of so many loyal basketball patrons? Is it worth the risk of the league losing more popularity as some will view a stand for individual rights as nothing more than an overreaction by a bunch of spoiled brats?
Those are questions that the front-runners in the potential protest must answer. Has James thought about all of the individuals this will impact? Or is he so financially sound that he doesn’t care about how his choice to sit out will affect others, so long as his point is heard?
To me, players choosing stay away from the basketball court if Sterling is still an owner in 2014-15 somehow makes him a winner in all of this. In the mind of the current Clippers owner, he would have made such an impact on the game that a few words sparked a revolt. Would NBA players really want to give him that satisfaction?
The likely scenario is that Sterling will be ousted from his position as owner of the Clippers, never to be heard from or seen again in a professional sports setting and devaluing the purpose of this article.
I hope that’s the case.
If it’s not and Sterling is somehow still running the show for the Clippers, whether through legal battles or a lack of action from the NBA and its owners, I hope that LeBron takes some things into consideration outside of his own frustration.
Don’t let a man who has already hurt and disappointed so many people negatively affect so many more.
Play next season and let the NBA worry about ownership.