An Open Letter to Clipper Nation
It is both ironic and liberating that amidst its most successful season in franchise history, the Los Angeles Clippers would also face its biggest identity crisis.
When they take the court today to face the Golden State Warriors in a pivotal playoff game, they will not be introduced as the Donald Sterling bigots but rather Eric Smith will call on fans to cheer for “your Los Angeles Clippers.” The name says it all. Donald Sterling may own the revenue stream, but this is Los Angeles’ team. The remainder of the playoffs give both the players and the fans the opportunity to show what the Clippers are not.
All too often, the Clippers are reminded of their troubled past. Since moving from Buffalo after the 1978 season, the Clippers have had five winning seasons and won only two playoff series in their seven playoff appearances so far. But that is the past, in the last three years only three teams – the Miami Heat, Oklahoma Thunder and San Antonio Spurs – have won more games.
Sure, I remember going to a game at the dingy Sports Center to see the dismal and demoralized Clippers get blown out by a mediocre team and being surprised when an usher approached to ask to see my tickets because I moved closer. I was even more surprised when, after I said “c’mon man, it’s the Clippers,” he replied “good point.” This year’s Clippers are the top scoring team in the NBA and, in contrast, have over 100-consecutive sellouts of Staple Center making them seventh in the league in attendance.
Donald Sterling the slumlord lives in his antiquated world of racial stereotypes. The Clippers live in Los Angeles, the gateway to the Pacific and the future. It is the most ethnically diverse city in America, where people speak 224 different languages. Sterling clearly cannot grasp this, but one person who does is Eric Garcetti, the Latino-Jewish tri-lingual Mayor of Los Angeles.
While stereotypes often dismiss Angelenos as vapid consumers in a cultural wasteland, it is the museum capital of America with some of the nation’s leading museums in the arts and sciences including Griffith Observatory, the California Science Center, the Getty Museum, LACMA and the Museum of Tolerance. Yes, tolerance.
Los Angeles is a lot like one of its sports icons – Kareem Abdul Jabbar – who is remembered for dominating the game as an innovative center who introduced the “sky hook”. Behind the flash and athleticism, however, is a scholar who has emerged in retirement as a best-selling author of African-American history.
Most importantly, Los Angeles is America’s creative capital. We are the nation’s story-tellers. Let us seize this moment, to tell the story of America’s future. Where people of all races are coming together to do amazing things. Clipper Nation is not Donald Sterling. WE ARE LOS ANGELES. Let us all celebrate what that represents by coming together, not apart and embracing our many differences.
Chris Paul, who played in post-Katrina New Orleans, knows what it is like to see a city rise up from the ashes of despair. Who better to lead Clipper Nation as it severs any remaining ties to the days of the dusty Sport Center Clippers and the ugly worldview of Donald Sterling. Who better to sound the call to Clipper Nation to rise up and seize the day for WE ARE LOS ANGELES.