Los Angeles Clippers players staged a silent protest against owner Donald Sterling before Sunday’s playoff game, while coach Doc Rivers said he isn’t sure what he would have to hear from Sterling to make him want to return next season.
“Don’t know yet,” Rivers said when asked if there were things he needed to hear from Sterling after an audio tape surfaced of Sterling purportedly making racist remarks to his girlfriend V. Stiviano. “I’m just going to leave it at that.”
The Clippers gathered at center court before a 118-97 Game 4 loss in their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors 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. During the game, players wore black arm or wrist bands and black socks.
River said he wasn’t on-board with the black socks protest, but said he was aware of it and was fine with his players taking the stand.
“I knew about it. I didn’t voice my opinion,” Rivers said after the game. “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.”
During a 45-minute team meeting on Saturday, Clippers player voiced their anger about the tape and discussed various options of protest, including boycotting the game.
“[We] talked as a team about everything,” Chris Paul told ESPN. “Tried to keep internal, everything we decided to do has been together as a team.”
In the Clippers’ locker room before the game, “We are one” was written on the dry-erase board, which was the message players and coaches talked about before taking the court.
“We’re going to be one, everything we do, we do it together,” Paul said. “Stay together, play ball, we worked hard to be where we are, can’t imagine going through this with anyone leading us other than Doc.”
Portland Trail Blazers star LaMarcus Aldridge urged his teammates to follow suit. The Blazers and the visiting Houston Rockets wore black socks during their Sunday night playoff game.
Said Aldridge, who is African-American: “I wanted to do something to support our brothers.”
Sterling was at Game 3 on Thursday night in Oakland, Calif., and was planning to be at Game 4 on Sunday before speaking with the league and agreeing not to attend as it investigated his comments. Sterling’s wife, Rochelle, however, was at Sunday’s game and sat courtside across from the Clippers’ bench.
“I don’t condone those statements and I don’t believe in them,” Rochelle Sterling told ESPN. “I’m not a racist. Never have been, never will be. The team is the most important thing to my family.”
She expounded on those statements Monday morning, releasing a statement that read: “Our family is devastated by the racist comments made by my estranged husband. My children and I do not share these despicable views or prejudices. We will not let one man’s small mindedness poison the spirit of the fans and accomplishments of the team in the city we love. We are doing everything in our power to stand by and support our Clippers team.”
Stiviano’s lawyer released a statement Sunday afternoon that stated the tapes carrying the purported voices of Stiviano and Sterling were “legitimate.” The quotes came from approximately an hour’s worth of recorded conversation that Stiviano says she did not leak to the media.
Rivers said before the game he had not spoken to Sterling and had no current plans to.
“I’ve not talked to Donald yet,” Rivers said. “Really no need right now, at least for me.”
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