Protesting Isn’t A One-Size-Fits-All Tactic

I don’t often write about current events relating to racist a**holes because it’s exhausting. I know when I was engrossed with the Trayvon Martin trial last year, I’d find myself thinking about the conversation I’d have to have with my son someday about race. So often teachable moments come up thanks to those who can’t tuck their racism in. Yet what could be an “aha” moment gets diluted or convoluted due to visceral reactions.

Donald Sterling is a known racist and sexist. His hatred runs so deep that he even changed his own Jewish surname to a more “acceptable” one. I refuse to believe that players and their agents were unaware of Sterling’s ideologies throughout the years; especially since owners have expressed their disgust in his actions at previous NBA executive level meetings. In game 4, NBPA president and Clippers front man Chris Paul and his teammates showed an act of protest by leaving their shooting shirts at center court. But for some people, that small act wasn’t enough.


All over the internet, people are venting their frustrations about how the Clippers players should have done more. I’ve seen every suggestion from they shouldn’t have played at all to they should all demand trades at the end of the season. The echoed sentiment was “I couldn’t work for a racist”. That sounds good. It’s easy for armchair activists to call for a swift and open gesture of defiance from the very people Sterling disrespected.

You’re gonna leave your dream job, a multi-million dollar salary, and your place in sports history to prove a point? Ok.

Listen, there’s great sacrifice in being the catalyst for social change. I get it. But not all players consider or want to take on the responsibility of being champions against the multitude of -isms. I mean, the Miami Heat was the only team to publicly participate in the #hoodiesup movement. Think of all the lives lost on a daily basis just a few miles away from the United Center; yet the Bulls have never taken a stand against gun violence. I think, in general, we put all this pressure on famous people to be our voices for change, equity, and acceptance. But this isn’t the 1950s and 60s. They are not our idolized martyrs of yesterday. We are the ones who truly hold the power to protest and boycott. [Note: When I say we, I’m not referring to black people exclusively.]

What people are likely overlooking (or maybe don’t care about) is the Clippers have finally gotten to the point where they’re actually a great franchise. I mean who would have thought the day would come where the Clippers are in the playoffs and the Lakers aren’t? Even though Sterling didn’t have a direct hand in the putting this team together, he signs their checks. These guys are in a position to be contenders for an NBA championship over the next few years. When you’ve spent your entire life working hard, training, and playing for something. And you get this close; are words said in a private conversation really going to snatch that from your grasp? Even if those words are laced with hate from your employer?

Don’t misunderstand me – I am not condoning what Sterling said. I hope that the proper repercussions will be handed down. But the more I thought about this whole fiasco, the more I realized this isn’t a Clippers thing or a NBA thing. The onus isn’t on Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, or Doc Rivers. It’s not even on the rest of the NBA owners to try to force Sterling out. We as the consumer dictate what people in power can get away with. I feel like we don’t always put actions behind our passionate words. CarMax, Virgin Air, Amtrak and several other corporate sponsors have pulled out on their dealings with the Clippers. The sports world was watching to see what the Clippers would do in the game on Sunday. When, in reality, not watching the game would have spoken volumes. The Clippers play at home tonight. If we want to affect some change, not going to the game, not watching the game would send a clear message to Sterling and any other owner who holds these type of views in private.

Kenny Smith said something on Sunday night that I wholeheartedly agreed with – until you stand up for yourself, nobody else is gonna stand up for you. If you look back on any major social movement in history, it began at the small, local, more intimate level. We can’t keep letting these bogus occurrences take place as just blips on our social radar.

Were you satisfied with the Clippers’ silent protest? What do you think it will take for us to get beyond being passive activism?




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