SARASOTA, Fla. – The controversy over reportedly racist remarks by L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s has impacted not only those involved with the NBA, but also those who used to play in the league. Among them: Suncoast resident, youth basketball coach, and former NBA player Marcus Liberty.
The silent protest by Clippers players was a strong statement in the wake of racist comments by their team's owner. But this is not the first time the now banned owner of the Clippers has made racial remarks. Liberty knows all too well some of the comments made by Sterling in the last 20 years.
"He was making a lot of racial remarks back then, probably in the 1990's. It had a snowball effect and he thought he was untouchable,” says Liberty. "He also didn't want minorities living in his apartments."
In 2003, Sterling was sued for housing discrimination, openly saying he did not want blacks or Hispanics living in his apartment complex.
Liberty says the NBA should have addressed the issue back then. "You look at it and you think the NBA could have stopped this a long time ago, before it got to this point."
With the Clippers currently in the playoffs, Liberty also says it will be tougher mentally for this team. "You can see the body language as they get into the games, you can see that as a former player. It's almost like they're ready to get this season over with so they can find out what my next step will be...whether I want a trade or not participate in any more Clipper events."
And Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has the daunting task of trying to lead his players. "I'm trying to gather my teammates, my players to win a basketball game....it's hard to really focus, now your energy is all towards that. This guy is smiling in my faces, but stabbing me in my back," says Liberty.
Blatant racism at the highest levels is a concept that Liberty says young athletes must be aware of. "A lot of these young kids haven’t experienced racism in their lives right now."