The NBA: A colorful land of opportunity

By Jeff Caplan,

VIDEO: Clippers offer silent protest of Sterling before Game 4

DALLAS — In the final seconds of Saturday’s thrilling Game 3 between the Mavericks and Spurs, a San Antonio player of Argentine descent rolled off a screen set by a player born in the Virgin Islands, drove the lane and somehow banked in a leaner over a 6-foot-11 Dallas defender who hails from Haiti.

Moments later, Dallas’ Spanish point guard inbounded the ball to an African-American teammate from Florida, who miraculously swished a 3-point game-winner from the corner. The first player to embrace him in mutual jubilation was a 7-foot German as the home team’s Jewish owner went berserk.

Perhaps no place on Earth is as racially, culturally and ethnically diverse and accepting as on the NBA hardwood and inside NBA locker rooms. Somewhere in Brooklyn, Nets center Jason Collins, the first openly gay athlete in an American pro sports league, who most of us have already forgotten is the first openly gay athlete in an American pro sports league, probably marveled at Vince Carter‘s game-winner just like everybody else from sea to shining sea.

Saturday was another brilliant day in this first week of intense playoff basketball. As for humanity, it was an embarrassing day. Audio of a racial diatribe, purportedly the voice of 80-year-old Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling surfaced, and the ignorance and intolerance heard incited swift reactions of anger and outrage from the Clippers’ Doc Rivers and Chris Paul, as well as from members of every race in and out of the league.

LeBron James is right, there is no place in the NBA for out-of-touch, backward-thinking individuals. On Sunday, Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki similarly weighed in.

“Disappointing, very disappointing,” Nowitzki said. “I’m not sure if a guy like that [should be] allowed to own a team in 2014.”

The NBA quickly organized to investigate as new commissioner Adam Silver faces his first full-blown crisis. In a news conference in Memphis on Saturday night where he was attending Game 4 of the Grizzlies-Thunder series, Silver vowed an “extraordinarily” swift and thorough investigation. He was in Oakland on Sunday as the Clippers returned to the court against the Warriors.

The real shame is that Sterling, the longest-tenured owner in the league and whose racial intolerance has been chronicled for decades but never dealt with by the league, chose an insular life within the greater melting pot of Los Angeles and the NBA. He refused to shed obviously deep-rooted ignorance through the unique opportunity the league affords every player, executive, coach and staff member — to interact with and learn from and about people of all races and creeds.

The NBA opened the 2013-14 season with a record-breaking 92 international players from 39 countries and territories. It includes two players from Israel and players from Turkey, where the populace is mostly Muslim. Players hail from Latin America, Asia, every corner of Europe and down under from Australia and New Zealand. And, yes, Africa.

The league has gone to great lengths to expand its global reach. Its Basketball Without Borders program sends players and coaches overseas in every direction each summer to teach the game. As part of its expanding Global Games program, the NBA last fall sent teams to Turkey, China and the Philippines, among other destinations. The world’s first NBA Cafe opened Friday in Manila.

Mavs’ second-year reserve center Bernard James, an African-American, served six years in the Air Force. He fulfilled three tours that included extended stays in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The military is as diverse an organization as the NBA is and there’s no room for that type of mindset, that old way of thinking,” Bernard James said. “I feel like the world, and America especially, has progressed a lot as far as race relations. There’s no room for people who think like that and operate like that. It’s holding everybody back.”

He went on to describe his experience with the Mavs as something of a multicultural classroom.

“I’m pretty close to Sammy [Dalembert], he’s a Haitian guy, so I’ve been learning and understanding about his culture. Here, we have Jose [Calderon] (Spain), we have Gal [Mekel] (Israel), Dirk (Germany), Sammy, all these guys are from different places. Just being around them this much and getting to know them is definitely kind of eye-opening and gives you a closer look at their culture and how their lives have been.”

The idea was floated that the Clippers should boycott the postseason as long as Sterling remains on as owner. That is not a solution. It would make the playoffs more about Sterling than the players.

Allow Silver to handle the law and order, to push Sterling, if guilty, deep out of sight and out of mind.

Doc, CP3 and the rest of the Clippers need focus only on playing ball.


  1. PackersYanksHeat says:

    I still don’t think he should’ve been punished for something he said in his home. I see political correctness destroy people as soon as any hint of racism by a white person comes up while blacks and other minorities we are allowed to get away with it. Smh

  2. Jesse says:

    I am a Clippers fan and I want to show my disappointment in Donald Sterling. Nowitzki is right, no NBA team owner should act like that. I hope someone like Magic Johnson would buy the team!

  3. Huh..? says:

    Remove Sterling as owner and move the Clippers to Seattle, L.A. will still have the Lakers, the NBA gets the loudest fans in the U.S., and one less douche in the NBA nation.

  4. burak obama says:

    They obviously made this story big as they should. You have to know sterling to realise that he is not racist, well who does? Charles barkley? Barack obama? Shaq? Magic? Snoop dogg? Lil wayne? They are not a clipper fan ! They are haters…yes iam a clippers fan! And so is nick cannon.. haha! The clippers will beat the warriors then the thunder if they get lucky against the grizz then 4-2 against the blazers and who knows against the heat!?! Or is this just another excuse for sterling and the clippers knowing they are not going to win this year or anytime until the world ends?!? This has got to be their best chance!! But iam also a laker fun a kobe bryant fan!! Maybe if the clippers have kobes heart,persiverance and that want to win attitude maybe they could!! they could win!! Because they do!!! Sorry lebron and company and clipper haters!?!well atleast will give the heat some great games..its possible!! Its like jordan going against karl malone john stockton and the jazz…also what the team did on their silent boycott was a good idea to make it look to the fans that you know..and eveyone had to make their self look good on tv by going against it…but in reality it is not racist if you think it is then your the one that is…!!! Clippers forlife!!! Win or lose!!!!!

  5. BJL says:

    The way i see it… alot of people overreacted. The guy has his own opinion about black people and conveyed to his girlfriend privately , not as if he publicly announced it. So what is the problem ? Some black people are just snags….

    • Jeff says:

      I’m still trying find out what he said that was so racist. And wasn’t the conversation between him and girlfriend nothing public

  6. Nick says:

    So, case closed? It’s been proven that it is, in fact Sterling that made the comments, or are we guilty until proven innocent these days? You people better pray that you are never judged in the same way you are now judging should someone make an accusation against you!

  7. Valerie Lee Williams says:

    You guys should all do a walk out and refuse to play until Sterling is removed. Stand as a unit and not let your fellow Clipper players stand alone! Think about it……..

  8. Joost says:

    The man is an idiot. Having said that, there are a lot of idiots in the world. You can’t win them all. Just let him be an idiot and focus on playing ball. Let Silver deal with this (alltough I doubt wether this is an NBA-issue or just a legel issue). Don’t get distracted just because of one idiot. I don’t get what all the fuss is about. Be proud that he is just an exception these days. Not so long ago this thinking was the rule. Now he is just an old men set in his ways. All those shorttempered reactions won’t make it better.

  9. theholyspectator says:

    had that recording not went public no one woulda known, who knows what else other execs/owners are sayin behind closed doors..

  10. The Voice In The Distance says:

    Sport should be something that everyone should be able to come together equally and enjoy either playing or watching regardless of what race, creed, gender, age or whatever they happen to be. Judge each person on who they are as an individual and nothing more. That’s who not what!

    It’s strange an owner should be this way about who attends games. As long as people are paying and supporting the team and not causing trouble it shouldn’t matter to him.

  11. pears009 says:

    Why did my comment NOT post??? Is there a time-period??? Does the comment have to be “reviewed” before it is posted??? I really and a good question/questions and insight, IMO! Haha! ). Cheers All! 🙂

  12. johnRO says:

    the old man is racist . but how come the tape is realese in the playoff just when the clips player won at gs ???
    now the clippers will lose this series ill bet, they are to disrtacted

  13. Jose says:

    I hope game 5 is better than todays game. A lot of ticket buyers and cable customers pay a lot of money for a good ball game after a hard days work. Look at the big picture Clip fans. Donald Stern does not represent all the people who work for the team and players. There was no need for the players to lose the game because that’s how it looked. Flipping the Jersey paid for by fans is dumb. Sterling didn’t pay for it, it was the fans money. The only people that the Clipper players hurt is the fans and the people who work for the clipper team. A lot of people paychecks are affected. The city of LA will lose or make more money depending if there are future games past the first round. If I was a team captain of the Clippers I would made a statement like so to the fans, ” Hey Clipper fans, despite recent events we will continue to play hard for you because you deserve the best and for the City of Los Angeles. We love you and enjoy the game.” Not flip the jersey warmups in protest. Like I said fans who tune in for a good game pay the price. I thought I was the dumbest one here on this planet until today. The biggest thing for me that stands out is Donald’s privacy behind close doors. He was talking pimp to a gold digging woman and cutting her loose.

    Furthermore I think it was insane that Donald was careless with his mouth. I think his ex girl is just doing all this for the money and doesn’t care about the impact she is making releasing a private conversation to TMZ. Who the heck are we to Judge an old guy especially when we violate his privacy? I’ve met people from all races who talk about other races and if I reported it nothing would happen. I looking at it from a from a mans point of view that this girl is gold digging and what do normal men do. We fight back and will not back down to a woman. Barack Obama shouldn’t talk. Remember he use to see Jeremiah Wright. Barack called him a crazy old uncle. Sterling is the fits the same description too a crazy old uncle in the family.

  14. D_Will2121 says:

    I don’t understand a lot of these comments. Some of you are saying that he can say whatever the heck he wants just because he “owns” a team or just because he’s “rich”. For a league that prides itself on diversity and multiculturalism to allow a man like that to own a team would just be throwing away that pride. No way should he own a team, if I’m a player for the Clippers, why would I want to play for someone who wouldn’t want my family to even come and watch my games? That’s just totally disrespectful to the players who work hard everyday to allow the LA Clippers to thrive as a successful franchise.

  15. says:

    It was a private argument. That should remain private.

    • Gary says:

      One of the parties decided to share information about the conversation. The fact that she illegally taped it shouldn’t matter because as it is no one would believe here (20yr old self) had she accused him without evidence.

      • justsayin says:

        Only one party has to know about a taping for it to be legal.

        And in this age of illegal govt/nsa info gathering privacy has been abolished.

  16. ProudAfroCarribeean says:

    Disgraceful! Appalling! Just plain old IGNORANT! So many years have gone by since slavery was abolished and segregation was run out of America. We now live in a place where we have interracial marriage and interracial eveything! And lets be real, practically 75% of the NBA is black or Latino or some other race that’s not white. After so many years of progression all over, you would think that these kind of things wouldn’t be happening. But I have to same this is the NBA’s fault! They have tolerated him way too long with these kind of issues so now he thinks he will always get away with it. I totally agree and until he is removed from the NBA, there should be a players BOYCOTT! (After the playoffs though)

  17. okc2014 says:

    How long does it take to verify someone’s voice? Isn’t this now day 2? I think this will go on and on and on and there will be no concrete resolution. This could be resolved in 2 seconds if he is just asked: “Was that you?” and he answers “yes or no”. In 3 months there will be some other new scandal or event to talk about and this will be forgotten.

  18. Austin says:

    If you are going to talk about race, at least try to get it right. Ginobili of Argentine descent? What that would be? He’s Argentinean of ITALIAN descent. You could have said, born in Argentina instead.

    • Really? says:

      You’re going to harp on that? Honestly? He has the right idea…

    • Jacob says:

      Yeah he should have gotten Ginobili’s nationality/descent right, but if you think about it the fact that he got it wrong actually serves the larger point — the league is so diverse that even an NBA sports writer writing about it can’t get it straight 100% of the time.

  19. wesley says:

    it doesnt matter what his opinion his he is the OWNER he OWNS you literally he holds the players contracts why are u people saying he shouldnt be allowed he wasnt ALLOWED he BOUGHT a team and now he OWNS them

  20. Joe says:

    I am avid fan of the NBA, and I am a Filipino. And I am minority.What I cant understand is when a black person like Al Sharpton says something bad about white people, nobody says anything I don’t agree with Sterling if he really said it. But when a white person says something like that he is already condemned without proving the facts Asian people don’t whine, they just work and work that’s why most of them are successful in this country.

    • cp10 says:

      In the USA race is highly polarized and as such is used for sensationalized journalism – it sells and sells. In the Philippines it’s a more grounded view of race I think, filipinos are more accepting and see everyone as a human being, but just like everyone they have their own stereotypes – look at how some team imports are treated for example. Yeah so from that viewpoint the double standard against whites is more evident

  21. I can´t believe that kind of words. Sometimes I can´t spell well in english but I can understand bul.”·$!!. Sterling go away!

  22. Serigne Fall says:

    Could not have written it better

  23. Jack says:

    Hahahahahahahahhaahahaha give me a break, pro/collegiate sports are modern forms of slavery, just because lebron is rich and famous doesn’t mean he’s not property of the NBA. And give me a break Sterling’s sentiment isn’t the norm, who do you think he was referring to when he said friends were calling him. The owners feel elite over players/staff. They are not seen as equals. The new comish better act quick because a full boycott of the NBA is next.

  24. I agree with Jordan , Lebron, Magic and all fellas

  25. SoulToSqueeze says:

    As a big NBA fan I am disgusted with this situation.
    Of course everyone is given the benifit of doubt, but should these tapes turn out to be authentic I hope the NBA will ban Sterling for good. In that case he should not be allowed to own a team.
    Regardless of the outcome of the investigation- NOW is the time for all of us to speak up against racism and intolerance. Every basketball fan around the world let your voice be heard. Everyone deserves the same respect. There is but one race: the human race.
    – just a basketball fan from Germany

  26. Luiz Nunes says:

    I write from Cape Verde, Africa.
    The man was set up by a person trying to take advantage of him. He mentioned several times that he did not want to discuss the issue. More, he told her that she agreed with him on removing the picture…
    Than she apologizes for MJ being “black” he said that he admires him, he loves black, he loves everyone, but she kept pressing on him to say something!
    She is good for nothing, this man was betrayed.
    Still, as a owner of the Clippers I feel like he refer to MJ more as a rival than anything else!
    Needless to say, he should know better at his age what to say to a “child”…

    • nice says:

      did u not hear the part he said he did not want her to bring black person to his games bro? or did u only listen to the part u want to hear..? ha

      • cp10 says:

        yeah but I think that was taken out of context, like it was forced out. In any case, many people in the NBA don’t seem to like Donald Sterling so I’d give them the benefit of the doubt. None of us probably even knew who this guy was prior to this incident.

    • Gary says:

      If the guy didn’t already have discrimination cases against him I would have opted to believe him more than the girl, but this weights in on his bad side.