Morris Griffin, of Los Angeles (center), at a demonstration in front of Staples Center asking for the sale of the Clippers. Photo by Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters.
LOS ANGELES - The NBA's strong action against Clippers owner Donald Sterling was a relief for the Clippers players toiling under the cloud of his racially charged remarks, their coach said Tuesday.
Clippers coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers, speaking before the Clippers took the court for game five of their Western Conference first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, said his players bore the burden of Sterling's comments even though they had done nothing wrong.
"When something like this happens with the burden of racism it always falls on the person who has been offended to respond," Rivers said.
"I felt the pressure on my players. Everyone was waiting for them to give a response," he added. "I kept thinking 'They didn't do anything, yet they have to respond.'"
But NBA commissioner Adam Silver's swift and decisive response on Tuesday helped lift that burden.
Silver banned Sterling from all NBA participation for life, fined him a maximum $2.5 million and said he'd urge the NBA Board of Governors to move to force Sterling to sell the team he bought in 1981.
Clippers fans had also felt the weight, wondering how or if they should back their beloved team despite the transgressions of the owner who, after all, reaps the most financial rewards from their support.
Clippers season ticket holder Andy Mendoza said he "definitely would have" had second thoughts about attending Tuesday's game if Silver hadn't acted as he did.
The NBA sanctions give him confidence, Mendoza said, that Sterling "will get what he deserves toward the end."
In the Clippers' first home game since the scandal broke, fans filled Staples Center, many holding signs alluding to the turmoil.
"Hate will never win," said one, another: "Rise above".
"Love the Players" one T-shirt slogan urged -- the back of the shirt adding "Hate the Owner".
"This is our house," the public address announcer said as Los Angeles players took the court for pre-game warm-ups. "Be proud of your team."
Prior to Silver's announcement on Tuesday, some civil rights activists had urged fans to boycott Clippers games. A handful of picketers outside Staples Center said they were there to point out that Sterling wasn't out as owner yet.
Dexter McLeod of People for Community Improvement quietly carried a sign saying "End Racism".
McLeod called Silver's action in banning Sterling "awesome".
"The commissioner did everything he could possibly do in his jurisdiction," McLeod said. "He did a very necessary thing."
However, McLeod said there was still action fans could take.
"I think they should not go in there inside the stadium and spend money," he said. "Would you support a business that you know is racist? Why would you circulate your dollars that way?
"If you want to go inside the arena that's fine, but do not purchase anything. There should be no bigot in this country that profits."
Rivers acknowledged that the ban of Sterling left him in an odd position, with no one to turn to about the needs of his team.
However, he said it was the "right decision" and he urged all to remain patient as the situation was resolved.
"We're going to let this whole thing run its course and then we'll all have better clarity," Rivers said. "I want my players to be comfortable, honestly. I think that's the most important thing."
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