SBD/April 28, 2014/Franchises

Kevin Johnson Says NBPA Wants "Harshest Possible Sanctions" Against Clips' Sterling

Johnson met with Commissioner Adam Silver before Clippers-Warriors Game 4
The pressure on Clippers Owner Donald Sterling "mounted Sunday with the release of additional minutes of a racially charged recording and a flurry of denunciations from President Obama, NBA players, fans and even the NAACP that had sought to honor him," according to a front-page piece by Sahagun, Dolan & Streeter of the L.A. TIMES. A decision on a "possible punishment for Sterling is expected soon." Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who also serves as NBPA Special Assistant, said that the "harshest possible sanctions must be considered by the league." While Sterling did not attend the team's playoff game against the Warriors at Oracle Arena yesterday, his wife, Rochelle, "watched from a courtside seat but did not grant an interview." She said in a statement, "I do not condone those statements that you heard. I do not believe in them. I am not a racist. I never have been, never will be. The team is the most important thing to my family" (L.A. TIMES, 4/28). The Warriors said that the club had "more than 100 credential requests since Saturday for a total of about 220 media members approved" for the game. The team said that there were "only about 140 to 150 credentialed media for Game 3 on Thursday, and there were about 60 for regular-season games this past season" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/27).

PLAYERS WANT ACTION: In Sacramento, Jason Jones notes Johnson met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver before Game 4. Johnson said that he has "spoken to union reps and owners." He added that the players "have five points they want addressed." They "do not want Sterling allowed at any more games this season because they consider him a distraction." They want to "know why prior accusations against Sterling did not result in sanctions." They want the "range of sanctions for Sterling addressed." They want the union "engaged in the process" and they want Silver "to act swiftly." Johnson said, "The players are not going to be silent. That day has come and gone. These players are engaged" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/28). Johnson: "We believe this is a defining moment for the league. It's a defining moment for the commissioner" (ESPNLA.com, 4/27). Johnson said that the players "trust Adam Silver to do the right thing" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/27). Meanwhile, Johnson also said that he "conducted an emergency meeting with the union's executive committee" (L.A. TIMES, 4/28). In Seattle, Jerry Brewer notes Silver attended yesterday's game and then "made his way to Portland." He knows players "are disgusted" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/28). Rockets Owner Les Alexander met with Silver in Portland "to share his displeasure" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/28).

SILENT PROTEST: ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi noted Clippers players yesterday "staged a silent protest" against Sterling. The team gathered at center court during pregame and "took off their Clippers warm-up shirts and left them there." They then warmed up wearing "inside-out red shooting shirts that did not display the Clippers name or logo." Players during the game "wore black arm or wrist bands and black socks." Clippers coach Doc Rivers said that he "wasn't on-board with the black socks protest." Rivers: "I knew about it. I didn't voice my opinion. I wasn't thrilled about it, to be honest. But if that's what they want to do, that's what they want to do" (ESPNLA.com, 4/27). Clippers G Willie Green said, "It was something some of the guys decided they were going to do, to show we're all in this together." During the game, fans were chanting "Sterling Sucks!"  In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes "not once did any of the Clippers seem totally comfortable wearing the Clippers uniform" (L.A. TIMES, 4/28). Also in L.A., Maura Dolan notes some Clippers fans at Oracle Arena said that they "did not wear their Clippers gear for fear of inciting animosity" (L.A. TIMES, 4/28). The L.A. DAILY NEWS' Vincent Bonsignore notes for the players, "boycotting was not an option." They played knowing "full well they'd be criticized for doing so and in some ways, be the public face of a professional sports franchise run by a racist" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/28). NBA.com's Jeff Caplan noted the idea was "floated that the Clippers should boycott the postseason as long as Sterling remains on as owner." But that is "not a solution." It would make the playoffs "more about Sterling than the players" (NBA.com, 4/27).

DID THE PLAYERS DO ENOUGH? FS1's Jim Jackson said players "missed an opportunity" to protest. Jackson added that the Clippers and Warriors "shouldn't have played" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 4/28). ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy during the Clippers-Warriors Game 4 broadcast said, "Neutrality can't be tolerated. I've heard some people say they can't speak to it because their team told them not to. Are you kidding me? You're a grown man. Speak up and stand up for what you believe." He added he would like to see the Clippers "sit silently on the bench in protest." Van Gundy: "There are some things that are bigger than pursuing a championship. Making a stand on something that impacts society is even more important." Van Gundy said of Sterling's wife not comfirming whether or not the voice on the tape was in fact Sterling, "Is it just me or is it unbelievable that you can listen to even just part of the tapes and not know if that was your husband speaking? It just seems implausible to me." ESPN's Mike Breen: "It's not just you. Everybody else feels the same way" ("NBA Countdown," ABC, 4/27). In N.Y., Michael Powell writes of the Clippers protest, "Was that all they had? What if the Clippers players had remained seated and refused to take the court?" The players simply "turned their jerseys inside out." Powell: "You wonder, in years to come, if these proud men and splendid athletes will think that was enough" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/28). However, in San Jose, Carl Steward writes the protest "came off poignantly and powerfully" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/28). In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes calling the Clippers protest "restrained" is an "understatement." It did not provide ABC "with much of a visual." It "wasn't something destined to remain etched in America's consciousness for years to come" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/28). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes it "may have been a small gesture, but it felt stirring." The Clippers "showed a heartbeat." It was a "proud moment for a franchise that has had very few" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/28). The Trail Blazers and Rockets in a show of support "also wore black socks" last night (N.Y. TIMES, 4/28). Blazers G Earl Watson said, "We needed to show we're unified" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/28).

HOSTILE RETURN TO L.A.? Rivers said of the team returning to Staples Center for Game 5, "We're going home now, and usually that would mean we're going to our safe haven, and I don't even know if that's true, to be honest." Clippers G Chris Paul: "I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about what it is going to be like" (L.A. TIMES,4/28). Former NBAer Mychal Thompson said that he "wouldn't be surprised to see thousands of empty seats" at Staples Center tomorrow (USA TODAY, 4/28). In Philadelphia, John Smallwood writes, "I wonder how many Clippers fans are truly willing to walk the walk about punishing Sterling." If only 3,000 people show up for tomorrow's game, Sterling "will begin to sweat" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/28). ESPN.com's J.A. Adande wrote it will be "an uncertain atmosphere in which African-Americans are being encouraged to boycott Clippers games and police are gearing up for possible protests outside Staples Center" (ESPN.com, 4/27).
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