The edifying aspect of the Los Angeles Clippers controversy was America’s reaction.
Even non-sports fans must have heard about what’s going on with what has always been regarded as the city’s second-class team, living in the shadow of the revered Lakers.
The Clippers’ obscenely rich owner, Donald Sterling, was recorded making racist remarks, chastising his girlfriend for hanging around with black people. (Not to mention the little-mentioned sexism of him telling her it would sully her image as a “delicate ... woman.”)
His long-suspected bigotry, the subject of past lawsuits, was on full display in the conversation that she recorded.
It was released to the world right as the Clippers were in the playoffs for only the third time since Sterling bought the team in 1981 and at the end of their best regular season in history.
The irony of his beliefs was not lost on anyone. Most of the Clippers players — and in fact the predominant number of players on all NBA teams — are African American, meaning Sterling showed prejudice toward the very people who made him most of his money.
The outcry was immediate and overwhelming: Sterling didn’t deserve to own the team, and something had to be done. The heartening part of the nationwide reaction was how many people, of all races, were outraged.
But the scenario was rife with sticky situations, among them: Could a private conversation legally be used against someone? Did anyone have the power to force an NBA owner to sell his team? Should the Clippers players reject championship dreams and fan hopes and refuse to play, to make a statement?
Led with dignity and restraint by veteran coach Doc Rivers, the players handled the tumultuous situation with class, turning their warmup jerseys inside out to hide the Clippers logo and wearing black socks, shoes and armbands as a silent protest while they awaited the ruling by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.