Just when you thought there wasn’t much more the Los Angeles Clippers Organization could do to embarrass their brand, their owners, supporters, and their local community, they stoop even lower. The teams recent fallout with Super-fan Darrell Bailey adds more shame to a long list of illogical and negligent management decisions inherently designed to push all fans away.
For years, the Clippers have been a laughing stock in the professional basketball ranks. They’ve achieved merely two playoff appearances with just one winning season in the last 20 years. Their owner, Donald Sterling, managed the team without any of the passion or zeal displayed by most other professional sports teams’ owners. The team never created any excitement in the local or national media, nor did they work to acquire the mega stars typically present on winning rosters. The fan base was always low and for a while it was like the Clippers preferred to lose. This organization needed a complete makeover to erase its ugly past.
Since 2009, the team began to make some changes for the better. With the additions of not one but two superstars, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, the Clippers were finally looking like an organization that cared. And not only cared about winning but also about providing its fans with a product worth supporting. It was the implementing and initiation of a culture change.
Unfortunately, all optimism was erased on February 29th, when the LA Times reported that the Clipper Organization asked Darrell Bailey, also known as Clipper Darrell (the teams biggest and maybe only vocal fan over the last 20 years) to drop their name.
The message below was posted on Mr. Bailey’s website later on the 29th expressing his disbelief…
“It is with great sadness that I must report to all those in NBA NATION that I have been told by Clipper management they no longer want me to be Clipper Darrell, a name that was given to me by the media because of my unwavering support and team spirit. I am devastated!!!!
I have been a season ticket holder for over a decade and a FAN for over 15 years and have dedicated a major part of my life to support the Clipper organization and it’s players no matter what the season’s outcome. Over the years (400 home games) I have gone to great lengths to show my appreciation and loyalty in my attire, the car I drive and in my very own home. I’ve taken seriously the mantra of being “Clipper Darrell” in performing community service, mentoring young children and my participation in outreach programs. I’ve appreciated the struggles of the team to overcome obstacles as I’ve done in my life. I felt vindicated for all the years we as Clipper fans have gone through trials and tribulations and NOW we have a team that can win it all. Yesterday was the hardest day of my life, I felt powerless as a fan, as I was stripped of my identity however, no one can take away my heart and the love I have for my team!
This news was fairly shocking because Clipper Darrell was a constant fixture at Clipper home games. Not only did he wear flamboyant team colors in support, but he’d dance and cheer louder than any other fans at the stadium. His appearances on the big screen at the arena were legendary. He’d start chants for the entire uninspired crowd to follow or he’d gyrate step by step with the teams cheerleaders as they performed a dance routine. His moves were almost perfectly in-synch with theirs, as if he practiced at home the night before. The kids loved him, and his energy was undeniable even for a stadium that had more seats empty than filled. It was rather refreshing to think someone sincerely supported an underdog.
But the Clippers didn’t care about his loyalty. Nor did they care about what the community and other fans might think if they turned their backs on him. Just like the twenty lousy years passed, their management reacted like deer in headlights, with no rhyme or reason. Who loses their number one fan now, after he’s endured all the bad seasons? Anyone with a heart should see the err in this behavior. This isn’t just a bad decision, its a heartless act. One that makes stomachs turn and faces scowl with disgust. With their history, they had no room for a mistake of this magnitude. The Clippers are almost like a husband who divorces his wife of 20 years after their startup business flourishes. She has their 4th child and he calls her fat then leaves her for a 19 year old grad student. Terrible, yes, but on top of that the Clippers Organization wouldn’t want to see their kids or pay child support either. It’s really hard to love a person like that. There’s a clear undeniable message being sent to all Clipper fans, something specifically about Clipper Darrell doesn’t represent the Clipper Organization, especially now. Maybe it did slightly before but now it doesn’t. Could it be Darrell’s ethnicity? Team Owner, Donald Sterling, has had a history of trouble with the minority community in LA. In 2009, Sterling paid $2.725 million to settle a housing discrimination lawsuit, in which Justice Department lawyers presented evidence that the Sterlings made statements “indicating that African Americans and Hispanics were not desirable tenants”. Maybe African Americans and Hispanics aren’t “desirable” representatives for a winning organization in his eyes. But the problem goes beyond skin color discrimination. A martian deserves better treatment. Clipper Darrell’s undying support, loyalty, and fervor were never a good representation of the Clipper Brand, probably because the Brand illustrates no understanding of those concepts.
After the separation was publicized, The Clippers released a response to the media, which was more concerned on placing fault rather than mending fences.
“The Clippers have done absolutely nothing wrong or inappropriate as it concerns Darrell Bailey. His claims are absurd and unfounded. He has never been an employee or representative of the Clippers organization, and therefore cannot be terminated. The Clippers have never engaged Mr. Bailey’s services. When he has been in need, the organization has regularly provided him a seat for games. No good deed goes unpunished.”
“We have had multiple conversations with him concerning his inappropriate use of the Clippers’ team name and trademark for his own unmonitored commercial gain. We have spoken to him repeatedly about his desire to make public appearances in ways which improperly suggest that he is officially affiliated with our organization. In all cases and over a long period of time, he has consistently rejected our efforts to operate in consultation. He is not actually a fan of the Clippers, but a fan of what he can make off the Clippers.”
There’s no compassion for Darrell. The extremely callous tone was an automatic deterrent. But saying Clipper Darrell isn’t really a fan of the Clippers but a fan of what he can make off the Clippers, just sucks, like vacuums. I mean really, how much do super fans make? Darrell said through 10 years of appearances, he’s earned approximately $7,500 total. That’s very little money for a guy who’s spent over $10,000 to customize his BMW into a Clipper-Mobile! These weren’t the encouraging words requisite from an organization needing to reconcile with the local community, or one who’s learned from prior mistakes. What’s next? Maybe Mr. Sterling will kidnap some of his own players to ransom some contract money back to help upgrade the luxury seats. Whatever the case, the Clippers have proven time and time again they’re capable of cutting well below any standard of quality set for a professional team.