It had been rumored that the Los Angeles Clippers players wouldn't take the court against the Golden State Warriors for Game 4 of their NBA playoff game after a leaked recording, of what has been reported as the Clippers owner spewing racist remarks, hit the news.
Their coach, Doc Rivers, assured Clippers fans that he was just as concerned as they were and that they weren't playing to win a championship for owner Donald Sterling but rather the city and the fans and as such, the players would be there.
Adam Silver, the new NBA commissioner, announced that Sterling wouldn't be in attendance. And in a show of silent solidarity, the Clippers walked onto the court at Oracle Arena and discarded their warm-up jackets at midcourt. They then went through their pregame routine wearing red Clippers T-shirts turned inside out so the team logo couldn't be seen. Players also wore black wristbands or armbands and socks during the game, which they lost 118-97.
After the game, players continued to "no comment" their way through the controversy as Coach Rivers told the media that he would be the lone voice of the players so as not to break their concentration during the playoffs.
According to NBA.com, after the game, Rivers said he knew what his players had planned and that he wasn't thrilled about it, but didn't voice his opinion and didn't care to elaborate further.
Rivers acknowledged that maintaining focus has been difficult since the recording of what has been reported as the Clippers owner has been released. On the recording, a man can be heard telling a woman not to bring blacks to "his games" and criticized her for posting a photo of herself with Magic Johnson on Instagram.
"Why are you taking pictures with minorities? Why?" a man's voice asks.
The woman, who has been reported to be a V. Stiviano, replies: "People call you and tell you that I have black people on my Instagram, and it bothers you?"
Man: "Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo … broadcast that you're associating with black people."
Stivano has been reported to be Sterling's girlfriend. Sterling is still married and his wife attended Sunday's game in his absence. According to TMZ, Sterling and his wife have been estranged for years. Sterling's wife, Shelly, refused to comment on camera, but she reportedly told ESPN's Lisa Salters that she was unsure if the voice she heard on the recordings released by TMZ was her husband, the New York Daily News reports.
Shelly Sterling also reportedly told Salters that she does "not condone those statements that you heard" and added, "I am not a racist … the team is the most important thing to my family."
According to the Daily News, Sterling's wife is involved in a bitter lawsuit against Stiviano, whom she alleges in the suit, "engages in conduct designed to target, befriend, seduce, and then entice, cajole, borrow from, cheat, and/or receive as gifts transfers of wealth from wealthy older men whom she targets for such purpose."
It was also reported Sunday that the NAACP will no longer honor Donald Sterling with his second lifetime achievement award.
"If these allegations are proven true, we are extremely disappointed in Mr. Sterling," Alice Huffman, president of the NAACP California State Conference said in a statement. "Recent remarks like these, and those of Cliven Bundy, remind us that racism is not a footnote of our past, but a reality of our present that we must confront head on."
Huffman also stated: "… that African Americans and Latinos should honor his request and not attend the games."
During ABC's playoff pregame show "NBA Countdown," Magic Johnson said Sterling, "shouldn't own a team anymore."
"I had a friendship with him. So for him to then make these comments, or alleged comments, about myself as well as other African Americans and minorities, there's no place in our society for it," Johnson said. "There's no place in our league, because we all get along. We all play with different races of people when you're in sports. That's what makes sports so beautiful."
Players from the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trailblazers joined in the silent protest by wearing black socks as a show of solidarity for "their brothers" on the Los Angeles Clippers team. According to TNT game analyst David Aldridge, Trailblazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge came up with the idea and contacted Rockets center Dwight Howard and the players agreed. NBA Commissioner Silver was in attendance.
Speaking to the media after the blowout loss, Rivers tried to keep the message on playing basketball.
"Our message is to play," Rivers said. "Our message is that we're going to let no one and nothing stop us from what we want to do. And I think that's a good message. I really do. I think that's the message we're trying to send. And if we can pull this off all the way, I think that would be a terrific message."
Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.