Blake Griffin wrote a column on Donald Sterling for The Players’ Tribune, a multimedia company founded by Derek Jeter.
In the column Griffin reveals his feelings about Sterling, and what he was forced to go through and witness. Before Thursday’s practice, Griffin explained that the piece was his “farewell to that world.”
“It’s nice to get it out there and really be able to say exactly what I wanted to say,” Griffin said. “That’s the whole idea behind this.”
In the piece, Griffin talks about how he was forced to attend one of Sterling’s infamous “White Parties.” At the party, Sterling grabbed Griffin’s hand, then paraded his prized athlete around the room as if he were a show pony.
“At this point, a lot of you are probably wondering why I didn’t pull my hand away, or why I didn’t just leave the party,” Griffin wrote. “For one, I was a 20-year-old kid from Oklahoma. But even if I had been 25, I don’t know if it would’ve been any different. The guy was my boss. Ask yourself, how would you react if your boss was doing the same thing to you?";
Griffin said that when he was first drafted by the Clippers, the first thing he did was Google Sterling’s name.
“The first hit that came up was ‘Donald Sterling is a racist,’” Griffin wrote. “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?”
Because Griffin knew his job was to play basketball, he didn’t press the issue much further.
“What was I supposed to do?"; he wrote. “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?”
Griffin said that after the White Party, he barely interacted with Sterling. Though the next time he recalled seeing him, his experience was similarly unpleasant.
During Griffin’s rookie year, Griffin witnessed Sterling heckle Baron Davis as he shot free throws in a game.
“Now, there are two different Sterling voices,” Griffin wrote. “There’s the regular voice, and then there’s the voice when he gets excited. For those of you who have been lucky enough to avoid listening to the infamous tapes, he kind of sounds like a combination of Walter Matthau and Michael Jackson.
“As Baron is lining up, Sterling started flapping his arms and yelled to no one in particular, ‘Why are you letting him shoot the free throw? He’s awful! He’s terrible! He’s the worst free throw shooter ever!’”
“Baron had been shooting like 87 percent that season. He was by far our best free throw shooter on the floor.”
“I was standing at half court, right next to Sterling’s seats, watching this out of the corner of my eye, trying not to laugh. I looked at the guys on the other team, like, I cannot believe this is happening right now.”
Griffin said because of these incidents, he was not surprised when an audiotape featuring Sterling making racist remarks was released to the media. Griffin said the morning after the tape was released, he had received 40 or 50 text messages. He listened to it in bed.
“I was getting texts from people like, ‘Man, how can you guys go out there and play for Sterling after this?; Eventually, I just shut off my phone," Griffin wrote.
“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. It wasn’t like before the tape came out, we were putting our hands in before every game and saying, “Okay guys, let’s go out and win one for Donald!”
Then Griffin heard Sterling go on Anderson Cooper and defend himself by saying that the players love him. That didn’t sit well with the star power forward.
“CP and I looked at one another from across the room and just tried our best not to laugh,” Griffin wrote. “We were hoping after [NBA Commissioner Adam] Silver’s decision that it was over, but the circus wouldn’t end. The first question I got asked at my locker the next day by a reporter was, ‘Blake, do you love Donald Sterling?’”
Griffin then goes on to talk about how things have changed since Steve Ballmer bought the team.
“Ballmer wants to win no matter the cost,” Griffin wrote. “Donald Sterling didn’t care if we won — at least if it meant he had to spend money. It wasn’t just about spending money on players. For years, our training staff wanted to buy this sophisticated computer software that would let them scan our bodies and keep track of our progress throughout the season. Sterling wouldn’t sign off on it.
“When I walked into the training facility for the first time this summer, the entire vibe was different. People were smiling. From the security people to the game operations staff to the office staff, everybody seemed happy to be there. For the first time ever, they were on permanent contracts. Under Sterling, all the staff were on temporary contracts. Top to bottom, everybody just appreciates being appreciated now.
“When I walked into the trainer’s room, the staff was going crazy. They showed me the new body scanning software. Ballmer signed off on it Day 1.”
Griffin went on to liken Ballmer to “a cool dad who gives you candy” while comparing Sterling to “a weird uncle.
“Someone asked me the other day if I’m mad that he made out with $2 billion for selling the team,” Griffin wrote of Sterling. “Maybe a little bit. But in the end, I’m just happy he’s gone. 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.’”