SBD/April 29, 2014/Franchises

Staples Center Promises Safe Environment For Warriors-Clippers As Protests Planned

Fan protests are expected outside Staples Center before tonight's game
Staples Center tonight will host the Clippers' first home game since audio was released of racist comments allegedly made by team Owner Donald Sterling, and the arena is "bracing for whatever fans have in store," according to Janis Carr of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. The arena in a statement yesterday said it is "committed to providing a safe, secure and welcoming environment for everyone" during Warriors-Clippers Game 5 tonight (OCREGISTER.com, 4/28). Clippers coach Doc Rivers said that he is "hopeful the team continues to receive strong fan support" despite Sterling's alleged comments. Rivers: "Fans are in a dilemma as well. We want them to cheer for their players and their team because it's still their players and their team, and it will be their players and their team." He added yesterday that it is possible a player will "address the crowd before the game." Rivers: "That's still being discussed. We're going to continue to discuss it. I don't know which way we'll go with that. We don't know the right answer" (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/28). Rivers added, "We want to do right here. We want to make the right decisions here. We’re doing our very best to try to do that. If we feel like that is something that will help our fans, then it will be done. If we feel like that’s something they don’t need, then we won’t do it" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/29). In California, T.J. Simers writes he "wouldn't be surprised" if Rivers or G Chris Paul addresses the crowd to "re-enforce their connection with the fans" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/29).

PROTESTS BEING PLANNED: In S.F., Rusty Simmons reports fan protests "are expected before the game," and marching and picketing "have been planned." Online campaigns encouraging fans "to wear all black or boycott the game altogether have taken on great fervor" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/29). Rivers yesterday was asked what fans at the game should do, to which he said, "I hope whatever the fans do is as one. As one group. Just do it and be one. ... I don’t even know if that’s the right thing, but I think it is" (L.A. TIMES, 4/29). NBA TV’s Brent Barry said, “I expect the fans will be great and supportive of exactly what Doc Rivers was talking about. Supportive of their team and their players and the efforts and the hard work that they put in ... to get to this point during the playoffs and having a chance to advance" ("NBA Gametime," NBA TV, 4/28). 

JACKSON SUGGESTS FAN BOYCOTT: ESPN L.A.'s Ethan Strauss noted Warriors coach Mark Jackson "had a clear message" that fans should "boycott" tonight's game. Jackson said, "If it was me, I wouldn't come to the game. I believe as fans, the loudest statement they could make as far as fans is to not show up to the game. ... I would not come to the game tomorrow, whether I was a Clipper fan or a Warrior fan" (ESPNLA.com, 4/28). But ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "If I was Doc Rivers, I'd tell Mark Jackson to shut up. I'd say, 'You coach your team, you worry about your fans. Don't you tell my fans in my building not to come.' Because that's gamesmanship. That gives a big advantage to the Warriors. I'm not saying Jackson is insincere. I'm saying when you look at the effect of urging Clippers' fans not to go to the game. Are you kidding me with that?" ("PTI," ESPN, 4/28). Meanwhile, R&B artist Tank said that he "won't be singing" at tonight's game as planned as his "way of protesting the racist comments allegedly made" (LATIMES.com, 4/28).

A RIVERS RUNS THROUGH IT
: CSNBAYAREA.com's Monte Poole wrote Rivers and Jackson are "uniquely equipped to be in and navigate through the eye of this ongoing storm" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 4/28). SPORTING NEWS' Sean Deveney writes while Sterling has "arisen again as the face of stubborn, old-line American racism, Rivers has held fast as its combatant-in-chief." Deveney: "We’re lucky to have Rivers embracing his new role, trying to guide us through the unexplainable mess made by his boss" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/29). In N.Y., Cacciola & Witz note Sterling has "reached out" to Rivers, but the coach said that he "rebuffed him, and he felt certain" that Sterling made the comments. Rivers said, "I haven't given him his due process. I haven't given him an opportunity to explain himself and quite honestly, right now I don't want him to, to me. I'll wait for that further judgment" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/29). Meanwhile, Clippers Dir of Basketball Administration Eric Miller, who is Sterling's son-in-law, called the comments attributed to Sterling "deplorable and disgusting." Miller is "in his second season with the Clippers" (L.A. TIMES, 4/29).
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