By Andrew F. Williams
I won’t waste any ink providing background details on what’s going on with the Los Angeles Clippers or the NBA right now. If you’re not up to speed, then click here to get caught up. Instead, I’ll start this story on Day 2, minutes before tipoff in Game 4 of the playoffs between the Clippers and the Golden State Warriors. Full disclosure: I’m from Oakland. Amidst mountains of speculation and anticipation surrounding what kind of statement the Clippers players would or would not do, I sat on my couch waiting for another 1968 Olympics moment. Good Lord was I disappointed.
As theClippers took the floor for their warm up, they all met at half court in a high-profile huddle. With a big flourish, they tore off their warm-up jackets and tossed them on the floor, revealing red shirts turned inside out. That would be the Clippers refusing to rep the logo of a franchise owned by a recently-outed, but long-suspected bigot. Not a bad start for a protest. Unfortunately, minutes later, they were on the court, playing Game 4 in full Clippers regalia—logos and all.
My problem with this mini-protest is that it failed to do the one thing that a protest must do—create urgency to provoke action. Instead, this show seemed to be an attempt to do as little as required before moving onto to the real business of playing basketball.
With all due respect, I completely understand the coaches’ and players’ desire to stay focused on the task at hand. Still, I was unimpressed. So, while I admit that I’ve never been a professional athlete, I find myself needing to sound off on the late night before heading to bed. Plus, one of my favorite sayings is still “Take my advice—it’s free, and I’m not using it.” With that in mind, I present to you another Live From Tomorrow list…
10 Things That the Los Angeles Clippers Should Have Done
1. Refuse to play. They could have just stayed home. Or, they could have showed up, but refuse to take the court. Honestly, this is my least favorite option. I can still remember watching the World Cup in 2010 as several French players refused to play because of a disagreement with their coach. I was, and still am, disgusted with their actions. I subscribe to the idea that in
some respects, you play for yourself, not the coach or the owner. But, at least refusing to play would have created urgency.
2. Request an off-season trade. What if every player on the Clippers spoke with their agent, then filed a formal trade request with the franchise? This would have raised the stakes without jeopardizing the team’s playoff run. After all, NBA players have been known to request trades for much smaller offenses than what the Clippers have been subjected to. And please, spare me that played out “they have kids to feed” B.S. The minimum salary in the NBA is around a half a million dollars per year. That means every player on the Clippers is doing just fine, even the ones with splinters in their asses from riding the bench every night. If there is an NBA player that cannot financially afford to sit out a season, then he is an idiot, and needs to learn how to manage his money better. Find another team… go play in Italy… find a ghost writer to do a screenplay about your story and call it 12 Years a Clipper*. If grape-pickers, miners and
garment-workers can do it, so can you.
3. Bring the message onto the court. This action is very common in professional sports around the world. Almost every week, teams in theEnglish Premier League sport a ribbon, patch, or arm band of some sort to commemorate something important. NFL players even wear pink socks! While a little insignia would not have been groundbreaking, it would have been a way to channel and highlight the team solidarity.
4. Rock the mic. If I can listen to the 2nd runner up from American Idol butcher the Star-Spangled Banner, then I know there’s room Chris Paul** to say a few words on the mic—and to the world—at halftime or before the game. It’s better than watching a crew of backup dancers shoot cheap t-shirts into the second row with an air gun.
5. Drop the logos. Completely. The Clippers could have kept going with their idea, which was a good start, except fort the fact you could still see the logo on their pants. What if they all took the court in plain uniforms with no logos? The great thing about this action is that it would have forced the hand of the NBA. I’m sure Adidas would’ve had something to say about it. Plus, my guess is that somewhere in the rule book, it says that NBA players can’t just wear whatever they want. After all, didn’t they fine players for wearing their shorts too low? Can you imagine if the league had to make a decision about what to do? Do they make the Clippers forfeit the game? Do they let them play in plain uniforms? I doubt Mark Jackson’s Warriors would have been filing any complaints in the latter case. My sense is that what the players want most is for the league to get off the fence and have their back. I can’t think of a better way to do this than to put the ball inthe commissioner’s court—are you with us, or against us?
6. A work slowdown. This is a classic protest move of industrial laborers—they don’t exactly strike, but they don’t exactly work. The Clippers could have taken the court as if everything was normal… but then refuse to play offense! Imagine how awesome that would be to watch Chris Paul walk the ball across half court then just stop. How beautiful would it have been to watch them rack up back-to-back-to-back 24 second shot clock violations. The message would have been clear. The irony is that the Warriors put up 39 points in the first quarter, leaving the Clippers down by 15 after only twelve minutes of play. Maybe if the Clippers had just “slowed down” the game and focused on playing some defense they would have been better off.
7. Black Player Salute. This one might be my favorite. The Clippers could have taken the court with custom jerseys sporting the names of some of the greatest black basketball players on whose back the league was built. Some giants that come to mind immediately are Bill Russell, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid., Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Julius Erving, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Moses Malone, Bill Russell, Lenny Wilkins, and Bill Russell, just to name a few.*** If they wanted to get real creative, they could have included great black athletes who broke down barriers in other sports: Muhammed Ali, Arthur Ashe, John Carlos, Althea Gibson, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Jack Johnson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Carl Lewis, Joe Louis, Willie Mays, Jesse Owens, Leroy “Satchel” Paige, Jackie Robinson, Sugar Ray Robinson, Wilma Rudolph, Tommie Smith, Marshall “Major” Taylor, Venus Williams, Tiger Woods****, and the list goes on. Can you imagine J. J. Redick stepping on the court with a red and blue Jim Brown jersey? And don’t try to tell me that they didn’t have enough time to get the jerseys made. I got a dude in East Oakland that can get you customized knockoff soccer jerseys from any club in the world by tomorrow, so holler at ya boy.
8. Win the game. If the Clippers hadn’t gotten spanked, then we’d all be talking about how they rallied together and used this adversity as motivation. But they did get spanked. In all fairness, I know they wanted to win. But they didn’t. I’m just saying. Maybe it sounds harsh, but as I write this, I feel bad for the players, but I do NOT feel motivated to rally behind them. If they had actually taken a stand, then I would be writing a very different article write now. But they didn’t, so I’m just another Warriors fan hoping that they lose, and hoping that they all find a better team to play for next season.
9. Play 2 on 2. The Clippers could have let J. J. Reddick and Hëdo Turkoglu take on the Warriors by themselves. Or, better yet, the two teams could have coordinated to arrange a 2 on 2 matchup: Reddick and Turkoglu vs. David Lee and Steve Blake. In other words: imagine an NBA without the black people.
10. Do nothing. Part of me feels like doing absolutely nothing would have been better than staging the mini-protest that they did. Wouldn’t that have been more true to their stated mission of staying focused on the game and playing basketball? I guess I feel like they did something just because they had to—but what they did was useless.
Ultimately, they missed an opportunity to make history—not to make a scene, or to make history for themselves, but to create a moment that would live on in history forever. Like Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the winners podium. Like Ali refusing conscription into the army and forfeiting his heavyweight belt.. Instead, it may become another footnote in the history of American racism and so-called “Error! Hyperlink reference not valid..”
* The title of this blog post is taken from a hilarious meme that started circulating on the internet on Sunday, April 27, 2014.
** Ironically, Chris Paul is President of the NBA Players Association.
*** I was tempted to include Michael Jordan, but the cat always seemed to have his tongue when it was time to say something important.
**** Don’t even start with me