Can Clippers Fans Unite for the Greater Good?

Sports contributor B. Gram weighs in on why fans need to unite in light of the Clippers controversy.

When the Los Angeles Clippers prepared to play the Golden State Warriors in the finals Sunday, nothing seemed less important than the actual basketball game.

Thrust into a firestorm following reported racist comments by the team’s owner Donald Sterling, head coach Doc Rivers was pushed into the seemingly impossible task of keeping 14 men, 12 of whom are Black, focused on the mission they set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season.

Sterling, an 81-year-old with a history of controversy, was allegedly recorded by his girlfriend stating that he prefer if she not publicize the fact that she fraternizes with Black people and to not bring them to his games. Sterling’s voice has not been authenticated by the NBA; however, the voice on the recording was quoted as saying:

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with Black people. Do you have to?…How about your life everyday you can do whatever you want. You can sleep with [Black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it… and not to bring them to my games.”

Sterling reportedly reached out to his girlfriend on Sunday to attempt to “make this go away.”

Regardless of who actually said them, the comments are repugnant, despicable, and unfortunately, just the tip of the iceberg.

As infuriated as people are today, a serious and realistic level of analysis must be conducted to identify what should be expected in response to this issue and who can lead the change fans are clamoring for. There are multiple layers of responsibility in this case; however, I believe the fans have more power than they think.

In my opinion, the most powerful voice that any citizen possesses in a capitalist society is his/her currency. If fans are as outraged as they say they are, they are going to have to do something fans have rarely done–if ever.

Fans need to abandon the team.

Abandoning the team means that if Sterling is not properly punished or a plan is not set in place to remove him from ownership, fans should stop attending games, buying merchandise, and supporting the team in any way.

This is easily the most difficult – and most unlikely –  idea for fans to process mostly because it involves a level of self control and discipline that many people are not willing to perform. Additionally, fans have developed routines which may revolve around a team. A simple look back at history of boycotts in this country’s past should remind people of how effective – and inconvenient – and boycott can be to ones everyday routine. Despite this temporary “inconvenience”, the efforts serve as a temporary change of routine to achieve a much larger goal for all involved.

The impacts on the Clippers’ bottom line are beginning to be felt as multiple sponsors have reportedly cancelled or put on hold their sponsorship agreements they had in place with the team.

Basketball fans everywhere should ask themselves an important question: if these corporations aren’t willing to spend their millions of dollars on this franchise, why should I spend my hundreds?

For better or worse, this issue will have economic implications one way or another. In order to turn outrage into impact, fans will have to demonstrate something that they rarely exhibit: Collective action and self-control. Without these components, we may as well just start a countdown clock until the next time we are all offended again and express our outrage via social media.

About B. Gram

B. Gram is a freelance writer on sports and hip-hop culture. He graduated from college in Atlanta and currently works and lives in the DC Metro area. You can follow him on Twitter at @TrynaBe_Gram or at Rap’d Up Radio in the iTunes store.