“King James” may lead his league into battle – but only if he has to.
National Basketball Players Association Vice President Roger Mason Jr. indicated Wednesday that Miami Heat superstar LeBron James may join his fellow NBA players in a boycott of next year’s season if Donald Sterling remains the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
“If it’s not handled by … the start of next season, I don’t see how we’re playing basketball,” Mason said in an interview with Showtime’s Jim Rome. “We have player reps, we’ve got executive committee members … Leaders of the teams, they’re all saying the same thing, ‘If [Sterling] is still in place, we ain’t playing.’”
“I was just in the locker room three or four days ago,” he added. “LeBron and I talked about it. He ain’t playing if Sterling is still an owner.”
James became a prominent critic among players after an audio recording that captured Sterling in a racist rant was released to the public. “There is no room for Donald Sterling in our league,” the two-time NBA champion said in the wake of the controversy.
The NBA has already banned Sterling from the league for life, and fined him the maximum fine of $2.5 million.
But players are demanding more.
The league is prepared to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, a team he has owned since 1981. Three-fourths of NBA team owners must vote to strip his ownership, a decision that could potentially be swayed by threats that one of the league’s biggest stars will be sitting out next year if they don’t.
”As players, we want what’s right and we don’t feel like no one in his family should be able to own the team,” Jamestold the Associated Press on Sunday.
James also acknowledged that the process to force Sterling out may turn into a long slog. Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, has said she is willing to “fight” to maintain her co-ownership of the Clippers, a move James said, players would not be happy with.
”At the end of the day, this is going to be a long litigation when it comes to that,” said James, according to the Associated Press. ”This guy who’s owned the team since the ’80s is not going to just give the team up in a day. So we understand it’s going to be long, but we want what’s right.”
Sterling hasn’t exactly done himself any favors in the time since the initial recordings were released. The 80-year-old team owner broke his public silence this week to apologize for his incendiary remarks against African-Americans.
But he did more than apologize – he dug his heels in deeper.
In an interview aired by CNN Monday, Sterling suggested that basketball legend Magic Johnson should be ashamed of being HIV-positive. He later went on to question whether Johnson made any positive impact on his community, comparing his own charitable work to that of one of the best point guards in NBA history.
“What kind of guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then he goes and catches HIV,” Sterling said. “Is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself.”
Johnson said he was “disgusted” by Sterling’s multiple tirades, but decided to take the high road.
“I just feel sorry for him,” Johnson told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I really do. It’s sad. … The problem is, he is living in the Stone Ages. He can’t make those comments about African-Americans or Latinos. He just can’t do it.”