In the wake of Donald Sterling's racist remarks, I've heard some people suggest that as a protest, the LA Clippers players should have refused to participate in Sunday's playoff game against Golden State. And I think that's an unfair thing to ask of the players, to sacrifice what they've worked for their entire careers, because of someone else's sins.
Had the Clippers boycotted the game, it would have been a grand gesture, but still only a gesture. Gestures and displays and protests can indeed have an impact, but only if they're part of a larger series of protests. There are better, bigger, and more effective protests than refusing to play one game. Meanwhile, the onus is on the NBA to take immediate action. There should be due process before any serious measure can be taken. While the investigation pends, however, the NBA can still suspend him from league and team activities, as well as from attending games.
If the players want to affect change, they should refuse to play for the team in the 2014-15 season, unless there is a change in ownership. The NBA Player's Association needs to make this a league-wide initiative for all players, not just those on the Clippers, not just black players, everyone. And the players - white, black, Hispanic, Asian, star players, bench warmers, draftees, college free agents - ALL must be united against playing for Donald Sterling.
The 29 other owners also need to take a stand, and be pressured to do so. The same goes for the NBA's offices. The other teams can't just stand by and let the league office decide what to do. The owners, from Boston to Miami to Portland to the LA Lakers, must pressure the NBA into doing the right thing. The owners can also urge Sterling to sell the team, or give up control of the team to a trust until a new owner is found.
The fans can also act. It would be a grand gesture for Clippers fans to choose not to attend Game 5 in LA on Tuesday. And images of an empty Staples Center would be quite powerful. An even stronger and more palpable protest would be for Clippers season ticket holders and luxury box owners to refuse to renew for the 2014-15 season, unless there's a change in ownership. The threat of losing that money is a serious weapon for Clippers fans. It will also make the ownership of the Staples Center turn on him as well.
Clippers fans, and NBA fans everywhere, can also boycott Clippers' merchandise and apparel. The NBA makes a ton of money and promotes its brand through apparel. The threat of losing that revenue will provoke action against Sterling.
It's unfair to ask 12 players to give up a season's worth of work because the guy who signs their paychecks is a racist. The players shouldn't be asked to stop playing, the owner should be forced to stop owning. Sterling is the one in the wrong here, he should be the one that loses something, not the players.
The NBA needs to suspend Sterling TODAY, while the investigation pends. The 29 other owners need to pressure Sterling to sell the team, and need to pressure the NBA to force Sterling to do so. The NBAPA needs to unify against Sterling and declare their intentions to refuse to play for any team owned or operated by him. Clippers fans need to use their purchasing power to convince Sterling that if he stays, he won't have fans filling the arena or buying his merchandise.
There's a great deal of outrage about what Sterling said. There are many people clamoring for something to be done. As I've outlined here, there are plenty of things that can be done. Instead of just asking the Clippers players to give up their season, or waiting for the NBA to make up its mind, if you want to see change, do your part. Write an email to the Celtics asking them to pressure the NBA to oust Sterling and asking them to pressure Sterling to give up the Clippers. Write an email to the NBA saying that you won't buy any Clippers merchandise until that team has a new owner.
Couple your outrage with action, don't just couple it with demands that others take action.