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Letters from the Editor: Clippers' controversy hits close to home

May 02, 2014|By John Canalis
  • Clippers power forward Blake Griffin throws down a breakaway slam dunk against the Suns on March 10 at Staples Center.
Clippers power forward Blake Griffin throws down a breakaway… (Luis Sinco / Los…)

My family became Clippers' fans last year.

I know what you're thinking, but we didn't hop on the bandwagon.

The nephew of one of the players is in my daughter's second-grade class. When school started in September, he told her about his uncle, whom I don't feel comfortable naming but will say is an outstanding outside shooter. Much of the class was excited.

My daughter said she wanted to watch a Clippers game — something she'd never done before — because of her classmate's enthusiasm. So in October we watched the first game of the season. She went nuts every time her friend's uncle touched the ball.

The Lakers pounded the Clippers, 116-103, that night but my daughter adopted the "people's team." We watched nearly every game of the season, even attending one at Staples Center. In her room, my daughter has a framed photo of Blake Griffin dunking. She tried out for and won a spot on a local co-ed basketball team. She plays ball daily at school. She's a standout in soccer, but basketball is now her favorite sport.

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All because of the Clippers.

So when the news hit that team owner Donald Sterling made racist remarks, my wife and I felt destroyed, not only for the fans and the players, but for our daughter. How would we explain this? Could we ever back the team again? Would people look at her askance if she wore her treasured Clippers T-shirt — the one we gave her for being named student of the month — in public?

One of the best things about children is they are largely unaware of race, loving pretty much anyone who loves them.

My daughter has learned about Martin Luther King Jr. in school. She knows about Jackie Robinson. She's studied segregation and slavery.

But these ideas are obscure to her. Every time she learns about racism, she is told that it was in the past. Her teachers — her parents too — tell her that America used to be that way, omitting that some of it, heck much of it, still is.

Eight-year-olds think the world is just, fair and good, and parents and teachers don't want to be the ones to break the news that, well, in fact it's not.

Sterling, I imagine, forced a lot of families to have a talk they didn't want to have last week.

I sat my daughter down and explained that the owner of the Clippers said some bad things.

"What kind of things?" she asked.

"Racist things," I explained.

"I don't know what that word means," she said.

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