LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla – Cameras catch everything these days, so it was of little surprise when an exchange between Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell and Mavericks star Luka Doncic was picked up on Friday night. In the first quarter of L.A.’s win over Dallas, Harrell bumped into Doncic while attempting a layup. As he ran back on defense, Harrell appeared to call Doncic a “(expletive) ass white boy.”
On Sunday, Clippers coach Doc Rivers told SI.com that he has addressed the incident with Harrell.
“You just have to be careful,” Rivers said. “They both were talking. I don’t think Luka was saying anything racial, but he was swearing. So they both were doing it. It’s an emotional game. It’s a playground game out there in the playoffs. I said to him, ‘Hey, I don’t think you meant anything racially by it.’ He said 'white boy,' but I don’t think there was anything racial intended. But we are in a very heightened climate and you have to be careful. Trez was the first one to say that. He said, ‘I didn’t mean that racially.’ And I said it doesn’t matter. It’s what’s perceived … make sure you do the right thing.”
According to Rivers, Harrell reached out to Doncic to apologize.
“They squashed it,” Rivers said. “Luka, I guess, was shocked that he needed to reach out.”
The NBA addressed the incident with Harrell, who was apologetic, a league spokesman told SI. The league has embraced the Black Lives Matter movement during its restart, which has increased the sensitivity to any racially motivated remarks.
The league typically does not police player-to-player language on the floor. In 2011, Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for directing a homophobic slur at referee Bennie Adams from the bench. Occasionally, when a verbal altercation spills off the floor, the NBA will step in. In 2013, the league suspended Carmelo Anthony for one game after Anthony attempted to confront Kevin Garnett after a game.
On Saturday, Jay Williams, the former NBA guard, went on social media and condemned Harrell’s comments.
“I can only imagine if Luka Doncic had said something like that to [Harrell] and it got caught on tape,” Williams said. “I can only imagine, during Black Lives Matter, how much of a big deal it would have been, considering today’s climate. It would have been a massive story. Luka would have lost all credibility in this space. Everybody would have been commenting on it. People would have asked LeBron about it, people would have asked Kawhi … it should be a big story. It’s unacceptable, man.”