NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been widely praised for his harsh punishment of disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling, but he could have been facing a much different response had he taken a softer approach.
Silver issued a lifetime ban and a maximum $2.5 million fine to Sterling during a press conference in New York City on Tuesday, while also pledging to do "everything in my power" to remove Sterling as owner of the Clippers. The punishment came down less than eight hours before the Clippers and Warriors were set to play Game 5 of their first-round playoff series at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The Bay Area News Group reports that the Warriors had forged plans to stage a walkout at the start of Game 5 if they were unsatisfied with Silver's handling of the controversy, which began on Friday when audio tapes were released that included Sterling making a series of racist remarks.
The Warriors were going to go through pre-game warm-ups and take part in the national anthem and starting line-up introductions. They were going to take the floor for the jump ball, dapping up the Clippers players as is customary before games.
Then once the ball was in the air, they were just going to walk off. All 15 of them.
“It would have been our only chance to make a statement in front of the biggest audience that we weren’t going to accept anything but the maximum punishment,” [Stephen] Curry said. “We would deal with the consequences later but we were not going to play.”
National Basketball Players Association vice president Roger Mason Jr. said at a Tuesday press conference in Los Angeles that players across the league were prepared to boycott in the event that Silver's punishment of Sterling wasn't sufficiently harsh.
"We will not be discriminated against," Mason said. "I reached out to other players around the league and made it clear that the players were ready to boycott the games if this type of action wasn't something Adam Silver felt was necessary. I'm happy to come here today and say that as players we're very happy with the decision."
Since the controversy began last Friday, a number of teams -- including the Clippers, Heat, Rockets, and Blazers -- have all participated in silent protests against Sterling by wearing their warm-up shirts inside out or donning black socks during their recent playoff games. Game 5 tipped off without incident on Tuesday night, with the Clippers taking the court to a standing ovation from the Staples Center crowd, many of whom dressed in black to take a stand against Sterling.