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As news about the lifetime ban of Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling spread last week, outspoken former NBA forward Larry Johnson responded by calling for Black players to be self-sufficient and self-determining.
“Black people, you’re focusing on the wrong thing. We should be focusing on having our own … own team, own league,” Johnson tweeted on April 26.
In statements objecting to his mistress V. Stiviano posting certain pictures on social sites, Sterling said, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associated with Black people. Do you have to?”
Adding: “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 on that … and not to bring them to my games.”
The website Deadspin released an extended 15-minute version of the conversation Sunday, including a portion where Stiviano asks, “Do you know that you have a whole team that’s Black that plays for you?”
Sterling answers: “I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have—who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners that created the league?”
In the allegedly post-racial, colorblind Obama era, even the president himself blasted Sterling as “ignorant” for making “incredibly offensive racist statements.”
“I don’t think I have to interpret those statements for you; they kind of speak for themselves,” Obama commented. “When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything. You just let them talk, and that’s what happened here.”
Some agree with Johnson and contend that since the NBA has been dominated by Black players for decades while most executives are Caucasian, the league’s acronym actually stands for “Nothin’ But Africans.” So Johnson’s suggestion may make many recall the days of baseball’s Negro Leagues during the Jim Crow era.
Johnson, who played 10 seasons in the NBA, including with the New York Knicks for his last five, is very vocal regarding racial issues. During the 1999 NBA Finals between the Knicks and San Antonio Spurs, he caused a stir by saying: “We’ve got a lot of rebellious slaves on this team.”
When asked to clarify, he responded, “I’ve got to explain that to you? We don’t go with the mainstream!”
Johnson has been an executive with the Knicks for the last two years.
A couple NBA legends also responded.
“He shouldn’t own a team anymore,” commented Magic Johnson. “There’s no place in our society for it. There’s no place in our league, because we all get along. We all play with different races of people when you’re in sports.”
Likewise, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan released a statement Sunday.
“As an owner, I’m obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views,” he said. “As a former player, I’m completely outraged.
“There is no room in the NBA—or anywhere else—for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed. I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country and at the highest levels of our sport. In a league where the majority of players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level.”