The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) is walking back hints by its Vice President that NBA players could boycott the league if it does not do something definitive about Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
On May 14, NBPA vice president Roger Mason Jr. appeared on the cable show Jim Rome on Showtime and hinted that four-time MVP LeBron James would refuse to play if the league didn’t force Sterling to sell. By extension, Mason hinted that other players may join the boycott.
“If it’s not handled by…the start of next season, I don’t see how we’re playing basketball,” player rep Mason said to host Jim Rome. “I was just in the locker room with LeBron…. At the end of the day, you know we have leaders. We have player reps, we’ve got executive committee members…leaders of the teams, they’re all saying the same thing, ‘If this man is still in place, we ain’t playing.'”
Rome pressed Mason on the matter asking, “So, your guy LeBron, you think he would not play if Sterling were still in there when the season started?”
The union representative continued reporting that he was “just in the locker room three or four days ago. LeBron and I talked about it. He ain’t playing if Sterling is still an owner.”
The NBPA VP is responding, of course, to the public revelation of racist comments made in a secretly-recorded private telephone conversation made between Clippers owner Donald Sterling and would be girl friend V. Stiviano.
Mason went on to firmly state that even if Sterling’s wife, Shelly, took over the team, that would still be one Sterling too many in the NBA.
But the NBPA has now gone to pains to note that there isn’t any such boycott planned.
NBPA secretary treasurer and Miami Heat forward James Jones told the Daily News that “there is no boycott” and that most accept the actions the league has taken against Sterling thus far.
“There isn’t a lot of talk about a boycott. The union wanted to see the league step up and did what they did what we felt was appropriate–which was to remove Donald Sterling. They did that. It’s a process and we know it’s going to take time. But there is total trust between the union and the league and commissioner and the owners, knowing that eventually it will all play out the way we agreed–which is Donald Sterling no longer being the owner of an NBA team. We’re all on the same page. The Donald Sterling situation is a league situation. It’s not basketball.”
Mason himself used Twitter to try and clarify his comments apologizing for leading people to believe that a boycott was in the offing.
“My bad if I was not clear. LBJ never said anything about boycotting. He’s a friend and I would never want to imply something he didn’t say,” Mason Tweeted on May 14.
Bleacher Report, though, notes that Mason is becoming increasingly political lately making comments on the Trayvon Martin shooting and joining President Obama’s effort to push Obamacare on the nation.
As to LeBron James, he also tried to tamp down rumors of a boycott.
In one instance, CNN’s Rachel Nichols tweeted that James told her that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is headed in the right direction, so there shouldn’t be any need for the players to do anything more.
But James has also spoken to others.
James did warn that he and other players are still watching the situation closely.
“There’s a longer conversation that needs to be held which I don’t have all the information for, obviously. But we’ll see. We’ll see what happens in the near future. And like I said, I believe in Adam Silver and I believe in our league and the direction they’re going I don’t need to worry about anything else and boycotting and things of that nature,” he said.
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