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Friday, July 19, 2024

Lebron James Vows To Boycott The NBA If Racist Donald Sterling Is Not Removed

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The Donald Sterling debacle in the NBA has reached a new head this week.  NBA superstar LeBron James has aligned with other players in the league who have put their feet down on Sterling’s racism, and their voices are clearer than they’ve ever been.  In fact, if LeBron is serious about this stance, this might be the most significant statement in professional sports over the last 40 years.

Team owner Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers in an undated photo
Team owner Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers in an undated photo

According to Roger Mason Jr., president of the NBA Player’s Association, James and other athletes say that they aren’t going to step onto the court next year if Donald Sterling is not removed as the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.  This means that if Sterling remains as an owner, the NBA’s billion dollar marketing cash cows are prepared to walk right out the door.

Mason mentioned this dramatic step on “Jim Rome on Showtime”, revealing the results of a third meeting this week that the players have had about getting Sterling out of the game entirely.

“If it’s not handled by … the start of next season, I don’t see how we’re playing basketball,” Mason said. “I was just in the locker room with LeBron … At the end of the day, you know we have leaders. We have player reps, we’ve got executive committee members … Leaders of the teams, they’re all saying the same thing, ‘If this man is still in place, we ain’t playing.’”

Rome went on to ask: “So your guy LeBron, you think he would not play if Sterling were still in there when the [next] season started?”

“I was just in the locker room three or four days ago. LeBron and I talked about it,” Mason said. “He ain’t playing if Sterling is still an owner.”

Mason also made it clear that the players are not interested in seeing anyone from the Sterling family remain as an owner of the team, including Donald’s wife Shelly.  Both Sterling and his wife have threatened to sue the league if they are forcibly removed.

This is the second time that significant player unrest has been revealed this season.  Just a few weeks ago, the Golden State Warriors were planning to boycott their playoff game against the Los Angeles Clippers if NBA commissioner Adam Silver had not handed down a strong punishment toward Sterling.

Without LeBron James making the statement himself, it’s hard to know if the head of the player’s association is misrepresenting his words.  I would expect that a person of his stature would be sure with his remarks before making such a heavy statement.  But even the hint that this option is being laid out on the table and discussed by players of James’ caliber is enough to make a lot of people nervous.  The powers-that-be aren’t accustomed to black athletes thinking for themselves and becoming passionate about serious social justice issues.

Financial Juneteenth lessons from this story:

1) The power of the black athlete is one of the most extraordinary untapped resources in American history.  These men are extremely rich and very powerful, so their voices, when used collectively, could literally change the entire landscape of black American existence.  This power has long been recognized by those who manage sports leagues, which is why there is often so much effort put into diluting that power and distracting it.  For example, it’s not a coincidence that many athletes in college are not encouraged to be highly educated, free thinkers, because a free thinking black man is one who is going to become conscious enough to question his environment around him.  That’s like an elephant in the zoo suddenly realizing that he could crush his trainer with one foot.

2) LeBron is showing himself to have the capacity to be one of the great sports leaders of the 21st century.  He is the king of kings, since he is the athlete that others look to and follow.  His willingness to speak out on behalf of Trayvon Martin is what led to the rest of the Miami Heat players joining he and Dwyane Wade in protest.  Also, his strong stance against Donald Sterling’s racism will influence the decisions of other athletes.  LeBron could be just the right transition in the mind of the black athlete, which was distorted for three decades by the selfish, egomaniacle, apolitical, one-dimensiona and exceedingly materialistic outlooks of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant (forgive me for sounding harsh, but I agree with the great Jim Brown, who also seems to feel that these men represent almost nothing good for black America).  Had Bryant and Jordan been better men, all of the NBA would have been better members of the African American community.

Bottom line:  Even if LeBron has laid this issue on the table, I applaud him immensely, as we all should.  Sure, we know that Donald Sterling isn’t the only bigot keeping black people from having opportunities.  But he is certainly a good symbolic target for what should be an on-going effort to combat the workplace discrimination that many of us feel powerless to fight against.   When we stick together and stand up for what we believe in, nothing can stop us.

LeBron has helped awaken the sleeping giant.

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