Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and his son, Bulls chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf, issued a statement in support of NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s lifetime ban of Clippers owner Donald Sterling, $2.5-million fine and recommendation that Sterling sell the franchise.
“We completely support Commissioner Silver’s decision today regarding Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and praise him for his prompt investigation and action,” the statement said. “The Commissioner was correct to ban Mr. Sterling from all official NBA business, to levy the stiffest allowable fine, and we will support his recommendation to press for Mr. Sterling to relinquish his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise. We believe Commissioner Silver’s decision reflects the best interests of the NBA and public civility.
“The league’s decision underscores the severity and reprehensible nature of the comments attributed to Donald Sterling. These comments in no way reflect the attitude, values, and culture of the Bulls and White Sox organizations. This behavior cannot be tolerated in any form,” the statement continued. “Discrimination and prejudice of any kind have no place in sports or in our society.”
The elder Reinsdorf has been lauded for his commitment toward diversity, particularly in his ownership of the White Sox, who have an African-American general manager, Kenny Williams. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau previously praised Reinsdorf’s background.
“We’re fortunate. We have a great owner,” Thibodeau said. “I know what he has meant to our team and our organization. I feel he has done the same with the White Sox.”
Thibodeau’s close friend Doc Rivers, a Chicago-area native, is the Clippers head coach and general manager. Thibodeau spoke of his disappointment about Sterling’s comments but expressed gratitude that Rivers is at the helm.
“I think the NBA in general, it’s been at the forefront. I think that’s one of the things that makes our league so great. That part is really disappointing. But as I said, I’m glad Doc is the guy that’s there to handle it. Because he will,” the coach said. “It’s disappointing and it’s sad and it’s very unfortunate for our league. Our league has been at the forefront for diversity and equality for everybody so it’s very disappointing. Personally, with my relationship with Doc, I feel badly for him because I know the amount of work that he has put into preparing that team. But I’m also very glad that he’s the guy there that’s running that organization. I think that’s important for our league.
“Obviously, with my relationship with Doc, I feel terrible for him because I know the amount of work he put into getting his team ready and as I said (Saturday), I’m glad that Doc is running that organization. Because this is a big issue for our whole league. Doc is a great leader with a lot of strength, a lot of composure. He’ll help guide us through it. But it’s very disappointing. As I said, the one thing about the NBA, there’s always been great diversity. It’s equality for all people. Our league has been at the forefront of that. Hopefully, everyone will be able to get through it. But it’s disappointing. It’s a tough issue to get through for them. I’m glad Doc is the guy that’s there. He has raved about his team all year. They’ve worked incredibly hard. They have a lot of character. They’ll get through it. Doc is a terrific leader, as is Chris Paul. Hopefully, it will get resolved soon,” he went on to say. “It’s sad. I feel badly for Doc because I know the type of person Doc is. Most people do. He’s not only a great coach, he’s a great person. That’s why I’m glad he’s running that organization. But it is disturbing that someone has those views today.
“You hate to see it take away from the playoffs. The playoffs have been terrific. There’s a lot of good stuff going on for our league. Our league is great, and it is a league issue. Hopefully it will be addressed this afternoon, and it will be taken care of.”
Bulls sixth man Taj Gibson echoed his coach’s sentiments: “It was crazy because at a time like this in the playoffs, everybody’s so happy to be watching playoff basketball. You don’t want to hear all that negativity, all those distractions. But the Clippers have got to deal with it on their own. That’s a good group of guys over there. They’ve just got to focus on basketball right now.
Gibson also praised the Clippers’ response to Sterling before their Game 4 first-round matchup against the Warriors. The Clippers’ players took off their warm-up shirts in unison, displaying shooting shirts that were inside-out, not showing the team’s logo.
“It speaks volumes. Not only for African-Americans, but just for racism — it’s not tolerated at all. And they took a big step forward, but at the same time, there’s so much distraction. You look at how they’re playing, and I can only feel for them.”
But Gibson stopped short of saying the Bulls would make a similar gesture, as Miami did before their Monday-night win over Charlotte.
“Right now, we’re focused on getting a win. That’s the main thing in our head right now,” he said. “We’ll think about that once we try to get a win. Right now, we’re focused on not trying to get eliminated on our home court.”
All-Star center Joakim Noah was also passionate about the subject.
“Yeah, of course we’re interested. I don’t know what the biggest penalty is, but if those comments are true about what he said, it’s very disappointing. Not just for the Clippers, but for everybody around the league,” he said. “It’s a league problem. I think it brings a dark cloud to the league. It’s sad because I think the league is in a really good place right now. You look at the playoffs all around, you look at teams all around, it’s very competitive. Everybody’s into it. The NBA’s in a good place, everybody’s in a good place. It’s become a real global game, and to have one of the owners make ignorant remarks like that, it’s sad.”
Noah acknowledged that Sterling’s prior background wasn’t well-known to some NBA players.
“People didn’t know too much (about Sterling), but it definitely brought light to him,” he said. “What the commissioner says today is going to be very important.”
Thibodeau agreed that Silver, in his first year as the NBA’s commissioner, would be in the spotlight.
“This is really the first issue he’s had to deal with, but it’s not like Adam is coming in from left field somewhere. He’s been there through all the decisions. I think the league does a great job of managing issues. Issues do come up, and I think our owners, we have a lot of great owners in the league, they’re going to take care of it,” he explained. “As I said, there’s not a better person out there running that organization than Doc, particularly in this situation. Our league is great, our players are great. Time to time, things do come up and you have to deal with them.”
As far as reports that former Lakers superstar Magic Johnson — one of the specific targets of Sterling’s comments — could buy the Clippers, Thibodeau didn’t want to make any assumptions.
“I don’t want to speculate. Magic is terrific,” the coach said. “We all know what Magic means to our league. We’re all for anything he does. Anytime you have guys like Magic and Michael (Jordan) and Larry Bird involved, it’s great for the game.”
Added Gibson, who attended USC in Los Angeles: “Magic’s got his hand in everything. It’s crazy, man. When I was out there in Cali, he had his hand in everything. He’s a great guy. But that would be kind of crazy if he was to own the Clippers. That’s kind of dramatic. You think he’s a Laker forever and now a Clipper? I don’t know.”