Here we go again. The Los Angeles Clippers made news last weekend – the owner, for all the wrong reasons; the players, for a high visibility, measured, display of protest. As sure as I write this, the apology for bad behavior from an owner (who is apparently living on another planet) will come. But, in the meantime, what recourse does an organization have when one of its own has such a spectacular lapse in judgment for all the world to see, or in this case, hear?
I think the Clippers players in Sunday’s game did it right. Theirs was a “high road” response. They warmed up for Game 4 of their NBA Play-Off Series on national television in logo-less jerseys after dumping their branded shooting jackets at center court. This initial response came quickly. It was impactful. It reached a huge audience. And then they went on to do their jobs. Unfortunately, the score of the game didn’t go their way, but public sentiment did.
In the coming days, the basketball world is expecting that the NBA will weigh in on sanctions and consequences for Donald Sterling. Will he continue on as an owner or not? In some ways, that’s almost secondary at this moment as the Clippers organization should do all it can to protect the greater franchise and its people. The game plan is to separate the majority from the disrespect spewed by one. That means being first and fast with genuine, key messages to key audiences – employees, players, fans, sponsors, the larger NBA community – with the goal of retaining their support. How is the team dealing with the issue? What is the real character of the organization as a whole? How are the Clippers the antithesis of the vitriol from the guy who’s at the top…for now? Why is it important for the team to survive and thrive beyond this?
When finding your way through the ignorance of a situation like this, the high road is a good place to start.