The saga of Los Angeles Clippers superfan Darrell Bailey, a.k.a. Clipper Darrell, has been well documented over the last week and change. Still, in order to understand why L.A.'s other team completely and totally screwed this entire situation up, you have to start at the beginning.
Bailey has been diehard fan of the Clippers for over a decade, despite their embarrassingly awful, chronically losing ways. He’s gone to games, proudly displayed team colors everywhere, and willingly wore the name “Clipper Darrell” in the face of ridicule and taunting that fans of arguably the worst franchise in sports inevitably got (especially in Los Angeles).
A week ago, the Clippers sort of asked him to stop using the name “Clipper Darrell.” (He offered to give it up during a stressful conversation not thinking he'd have to, and they apparently jumped at the opportunity.) They reportedly tried to sweeten the deal and soften the blow by offering him, a season ticket holder, season tickets. In response, an obviously crushed Bailey did a few interviews and addressed the situation. He maintained that he was still a diehard Clippers fan, throughout, and in no way demeaned the organization despite the undeniably shady way things reportedly went down.
Late last week, Los Angeles Times writer Bill Plaschke wrote a column entitled “Clipper Darrell's betrayal — of the Clippers” more or less eviscerating Bailey. It was typical contrarian stuff filled with nifty little face-saving quotes from the organization, and was clearly the Clippers’ attempt at fighting back against some of the PR damage that had been done prior to that.
Most folks saw Plaschke’s article for it was (Clipper puff piece intended to blast Bailey for no reason), but some took it at face value. Slowly, the support for Clipper Darrell began to noticeably decline.
This past weekend, Clipper Darrell appeared on ABC to discuss everything that had transpired:
The fact of the matter is, the Clippers are obviously in the wrong here. Regardless of whose story you buy, here is the core issue that both sides agree on: the organization tried to stifle something Bailey wanted to say because they felt he "represented" the Clippers. The argument was that because they were letting him use their name and profit off it despite any official agreement, they deserved say over his message like they'd have over any other employee.
Fine. Fair enough.
But why wasn’t this an issue at any point over the last 10 years? Nothing has changed on Clipper Darrell's end. The reason everyone came down hard on this notoriously tone-deaf franchise last week after news of what happened initially broke is because this was a classic case of a team getting good and suddenly forgetting about its fans. Plaschke noted this much in his column before eventually dismissing a solid point.
“One colleague even likened the Clippers to the overweight guy who loses 50 pounds and promptly dumps his girlfriend. Really? Do we seriously need to go here?” he wrote.
Yes, we do need to go there. It’s an entirely accurate analogy. Clipper Darrell has been doing the things he’s done this year for a long time. Why is it suddenly an issue? The reason fans got agitated about this is because now that the Clippers are good, Clipper Darrell suddenly can’t represent them freely like he used to anymore. Even if you buy everything in Plaschke’s puff piece, the Clippers not letting Bailey represent them like he used to is something everyone agrees they did. And that’s why folks are mad.
Once again: it's the notion that something is different about the way Clipper Darrell can conduct himself now that the Clippers have Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan -- all of whom tweeted support for Clipper Darrell -- that is at the root of this problem.
If the Clippers had issues with the way this guy did what he did, they should have had the same issues with him last year, five years ago and ten years ago. They didn’t. The problem arose in the here and now because they got a league MVP candidate handed to them by the NBA commissioner on a silver platter.
Donald Sterling’s bunch is in the wrong here. They mishandled the situation from the start. Then they bungled the PR by going on the defensive and siccing their attack dog Bill Plaschke on a defenseless guy who doesn't have a cellphone full of reporters to call. And all they’re doing now is compounding the mistake by keeping this stupid war going instead of apologizing and moving on.
If anyone had any doubts before, now you know – no single player, not even one as great as CP3, can change the fact that the Clippers will always be the Clippers.
(Kudos to Yahoo! Sports for the video)