Without having to say a word, JJ Redick, the most prominent white player on the Los Angeles Clippers, has made clear where he stands when it comes to team owner Donald Sterling’s assertion that black people aren’t welcome at Clippers games. When he and his teammates came out for warmups ahead of game four this past weekend, they unanimously shed their jerseys at mid court before their shootaround, while all wearing black socks. The message: solidarity against their boss’s racist remarks.
It would have been a surprise if Redick hadn’t joined his black teammates in their act of defiance. Donald Sterling’s comments are roundly recognized as not only offensive but idiotic, Sterling himself a relic from another era with a mindset entirely forgettable, a reminder of a past American chapter that most of us would rather forget ever existed. It’s nearly a given in this era that a white player like Redick is as put off by such racist discrimination as anyone else on the roster. It was just as much a given that when the Miami Heat decided to stand with the Clippers by discarding their own warmup jerseys midcourt, Chris “Birdman” Andersen joined in just as assuredly as LeBron James. It’s a long way from back when Pee Wee Reese throwing his arm around Jackie Robinson in a show of support was unusual enough to catch the public off guard.
And yet the fact that an NBA owner would even think to say such a thing as what Sterling said – even when he thought he was speaking in private – suggests that we may not have come as far on race relations as we’d like to think. Still, the fact that no one was surprised to see a white player stand with his black teammates on this issue means that the equilibrium for American views on race has indeed shifted significantly. Now we’ll see how far the NBA’s other owners, most of whom are white men of advancing age themselves, are willing to go in order to distance themselves from Sterling – but white players like Redick have already made their feelings on the matter clear.