NBA superstar Blake Griffin is now writing for The Players Tribune. His topic of choice: Donald Sterling. His view: ‘Some people are so poor all they have is their money.’
When Derek Jeter launched The Players Tribune website as a platform to allow athletes to share their own “unfiltered” honest views and perspectives in their own words, we didn’t know quite what to think.
The first piece on the site, “Let’s Talk About Domestic Violence,” was written by Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson, and it signaled that The Players Tribune was going to be something special. As we wrote, Wilson began that piece with a startlingly honest admission about his past as a bully and delivers a forthcoming and heartfelt message about growing up, being a man, and taking responsibility to make the world a better place.
Next up is Clippers superstar (and Players Tribune Senior Editor) Blake Griffin. In his newly published piece, “The Boss,” Griffin details his relationship with now-ousted Clippers owner, Donald Sterling from when he was a young player when he entered the league through the controversial sale of the Clippers triggered by the release of Sterling’s racist audio tapes.
Griffin opens by telling of Sterling parading him around at parties shortly after he drafted him. Its one part awkward and one part creepy, and what Griffin most effectively conveys is that Donald Sterling treated his 20 year old player like a shiny new toy he was showing off:
He led me through the house to the balcony overlooking his tennis court. The whole party was set up out there. White tents. White umbrellas. White cloth. I showed up in all white. Everyone showed up in all white. Then there was Donald, standing on the balcony overlooking it all, wearing all black. “Isn’t this just fabulous?” he said.
* * *
Donald Sterling literally introduced me to everyone. Here’s how he did it, every single time, to every single group of people, while holding on to my hand:
“Everyone, have you met our newest star? This is Blake! He was the number one pick in the entire NBA draft. Number one! Blake, where are you from?” Then I’d say I was from Oklahoma. “Oklahoma! And tell these people what you think about LA.” Then I’d say it was pretty cool. “And what about the women in LA, Blake?”
It was the same conversation with every group of people.
Griffin also delves into how, as a young black player, he dealt with playing for a man who was widely known to be a racist. Entering the league as a rookie, even though he knew of Sterling’s racism, he didn’t feel he had much choice:
When I knew the Clippers were drafting me, the first thing I did was type Donald Sterling’s name into Google. The first hit that came up was “Donald Sterling is a racist.” I read an article on how he didn’t want minorities to live in his apartment buildings. My first thought was, Wow this guy is really, really a racist … how is he an owner of an NBA team?
My second thought was, Wow, these articles are from 2003 and 2008. I guess everybody already knows about this stuff and just doesn’t care.
As players, we’re not supposed to really care about anything but basketball. We’re just supposed to perform. To be honest, I didn’t ever really think about bringing up Sterling’s past. What was I supposed to do? Just picture me at the press conference my rookie year. “Uh … hey, guys, before we talk about today’s game, did you happen to see that investigative report on my owner?”
Years later, when the scandal that led to his Sterling’s ouster broke (in which an audio recording of one of Sterling’s racist rants was released) during the NBA Playoffs, Griffin and teammates were placed squarely at the intersection of basketball and their principles. But Griffin didn’t see it that way. To him, the choice to play basketball for the fans, rather than protest Sterling by not playing, was the right choice: “My feeling, right or wrong, was that we should shut it all out and go out and play for our fans, our families, and for each other. For people to ever think we were playing for Donald Sterling is comical.”
Now, he’s just happy that Sterling is gone and they can move on. He’s not even too bothered that Sterling made $2 billion dollars in the sale:
I think about him pulling me around the White Party in Malibu, and a saying comes to mind: “Some people are so poor, all they have is their money.”
Griffin’s piece on what it felt like to play for Sterling is a worthy follow-up piece to Russell Wilson’s, and demonstrates that The Players Tribune is going to be an exciting platform for athletes to share their stories in their voices.
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(Photo Credit: AP/File)