The NBA Players Association threatened to boycott the league if swift, punitive action wasn't taken against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for racist comments he made against African-Americans, the players said today.
Roger Mason, the NBPA vice president, described a league-wide phone call that took place Monday night among players and league executives in which the players had threatened to walk if NBA Commissioner Adam Silver went easy on Sterling.
Earlier today, Silver announced the NBA had banned Sterling for life and asked the Board of Governors to force a sale of the team.
"We had a call with the commissioner, with the executive committee representatives [of the Board of Governors], and with players across the league, and the commissioner asked us what our views were," Mason said today. "We made it clear the players were ready to boycott."
Mason appeared with Kevin Johnson, president of the National Basketball Players Association, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Steve Nash and a host of other current and former players in Los Angeles following the NBA's announcement.
"I’m happy to come here and say today we’re happy with the decision but not content yet," Mason said. "We want immediate action, we want a timetable from the owners when this vote [to force a sale of the Clippers] is going to happen. We feel confident that this is something that can be handled quickly."
The players described a unified front of 400-plus NBA players who came together quickly in the wake of an audio tape released this weekend that had recorded Sterling telling his then-girlfriend, Vanessa Stiviano, not to bring black people to Clippers games or be photographed with black men. Silver said today that an investigation showed it was Sterling's voice in the recordings and that Sterling acknowledged that fact to Silver.
Sterling's lawyer Robert Platt declined comment when asked by ESPN whether Sterling wound dispute or respond to the NBA's actions.
The Clippers protested Sterling's comments over the weekend by wearing their jerseys inside out for a game against the Golden State Warriors. The Miami Heat also wore their jerseys inside out in solidarity with the Clippers in response to the comments.
"The players came out strong, they came out powerful, and they did in a very professional way," said Johnson, a former player who is now mayor of Sacramento, Calif.
"The players asked me to represent them and they said to me, Mayor, we want you to tell Commissioner Silver three things are important to us: number one, that immediate action is taken, number two, that we need the players voice to be there, a collective voice, we need a seat at the table, and thirdly we want the maximum allowable punishment under the bylaws of the constitution, that there must be a change in ownership," Johnson said to applause.
Someone in the audience yelled "all right!" in response to the demand for change of ownership.
The players appeared alongside Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who emphasized that the city was standing with the Clippers players as they return to the court for a playoff game tonight.
"This is an astonishing situation obviously," added Nash. "It begs a bigger question. If racism is a learned behavior, how long will it go on for? How long will people be taught to be bigoted, to discriminate and to instill hatred in our communities? Let’s hope this is an opportunity for all of us, the players and the league and the community to help educate and take one step further toward eradicating racism in our communities."