Five years ago, for part of one NBA season, Zach Randolph was a Los Angeles Clipper and on the payroll of owner Donald Sterling.
“I played for him,” Randolph said Monday before the Grizzlies practice in preparation for Game 5 of their playoff series with the Thunder that continues at Oklahoma City Tuesday night even at 2-2. “To hear those comments, there’s no place for that. Makes you feel a certain type of way.”
The racist comments allegedly made by Sterling – made public via a recording obtained by TMZ and posted at TMZ.com – came out Saturday. Sterling has been accused of racist comments before and once settled a federal housing discrimination lawsuit that included allegations he preferred Korean tenants over African-Americans and Hispanics.
Asked if he ever got any indication of Sterling having a bigoted view toward African-Americans, Randolph said: “Actually, I didn’t. Every time I seen him and his wife (Rochelle) it was good. Smiles, hugs. So I didn’t get that.”
The Clippers, in the midst of their own first-round playoff series with the Golden State Warriors, made a show of solidarity Sunday by turning their warm-up shirts inside-out before the game so the Clippers’ logo was not visible. Point guard Chris Paul is head of the league’s Players Association.
“It’s gotta be tough for the guys playing in L.A.,” the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley said. “I can only imagine (what it’s like for Paul). I’m just a player rep and I feel like it’s tough on me sometimes, all my players asking me what to do. He’s got the whole league to worry about, representing us as players and toward the public and perception and everything. He’s definitely got a tough job.”
New NBA commissioner Adam Silver was in Memphis Saturday when news of Sterling’s alleged comments broke. He said then that the NBA would move “extraordinarily quickly” to determine the tape’s authenticity.
Silver added: “There are broad powers in place under the NBA’s constitution and bylaws that include a range of sanctions.”
The Miami Heat’s LeBron James said, “There’s no room for Donald Sterling in the NBA.”
Some media members have floated the idea Clippers coach Doc Rivers, Paul and other players and coached be allowed to leave the team if Sterling remains. From a legal standpoint, suspending Sterling will be much easier than removing him as owner.
“I don’t even know what’s reasonable at this point,” Conley said on letting coaches and players out of contracts. “I know it’s gonna have to be something drastic. I don’t know if that’s the way to go or what should be the way to go.”