In a new column published Thursday exclusively for Derek Jeter’s new website, The Player’s Tribune, Griffin admits he learned of Sterling’s racism firsthand through uncomfortable personal interactions and a simple Google search.
“The first hit that came up was ‘Donald Sterling is a racist,’” writes Griffin. “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?”
Sterling was the center of a media firestorm last April, when a private phone conversation between himself and his purported girlfriend, V. Stiviano, was leaked to the public. Sterling was heard making racially insensitive remarks about African-Americans and his black players in particular.
“I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them?,” Sterling said in the surreptitiously recorded audio.
The 80-year-old billionaire has not denied making the controversial statements, the fallout from which led to him being banned for life from the NBA and getting pushed out of his ownership role with the Clippers, a team he’d run for over 30 years.
“When I woke up the morning after the tape leaked, I had 40 or 50 text messages,” Griffin writes for The Players Tribune. “The first thing I did was listen to the tape in bed. It was shocking to actually hear what he said, but not really that surprising to me.”
Griffin writes candidly about how uncomfortable Sterling made him from the moment they initially met, when he was the number one NBA draft pick back in 2009. He says the then-Clippers owner literally led him around a party by the hand and wouldn’t let go. Later, he recalled Sterling loudly berating one of the team’s best players when they were trying to take foul shots.
“If you’re wondering how a known racist can own an NBA team without anyone batting an eye, first ask yourself how the owner of an NBA team can scream at his team’s best player in front of thousands of people and hundreds of cameras without anyone even caring,” writes Griffin.
In the wake of the Sterling scandal, Griffin and his teammates were often looked at skeptically, with fans and pundits wondering aloud: “Man, how can you guys go out there and play for Sterling after this?”
“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!’” jokes Griffin.
As for the Clippers’ new owner Steve Ballmer, Griffin says, “Steve is a good dude. He’s like a cool dad who gives you candy. Donald was like a weird uncle.”
Still, Griffin thinks the media has been to quick to sweep the Donald Sterling saga under the rug.
“In the end, I’m just happy he’s gone,” he writes.