The Los Angeles Clippers were actually a decent story this season. With the acquisition of guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets and claiming guard Chauncey Billups off amnesty waivers prior to opening the season, it seemed like the Clippers were taking a big step in the right direction. With Paul and Billups joining human dunk machines Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers were launched into somewhere they have never been before. That place is relevance.
Suddenly the Clippers were considered NBA playoff contenders, some like ESPN's Chris Broussard had them as their dark horse to come out of the Western Conference. That thinking hasn't stopped even after Billups was lost for the season due to injury.
Yet amidst this celebratory mood for a franchise that were considered permanent participants in the NBA draft lottery there was a sense that somehow the Clippers would find a way to mess it up.
Last Wednesday, that actually happened.
On February 28, the Clippers front office told Darrel Bailey, known to NBA fans as Clipper Darrell, to drop the 'Clipper' from his stage name in a manner that has people saying 'only the Clippers...' Bailey made the announcement on his Twitter page and his blog the next day.
That announcement spurred a huge reaction in social media against the Clippers from fans, journalists, and even their own players. Clipper players such as Paul, Griffin, and Jordan tweeted their support for Bailey in the hours after the announcement (Grffin & Jordan's tweets have since been deleted while Paul's still stands.) Sports writers such as SBNation.com contributor Andrew Sharp took this as a chance to remind people of Clipper owner Donald Sterling's notorious history which includes public trysts with prostitutes (he actually sued one) and claims of racism involving his real estate interests.
In the middle of this storm the Clippers put out a statement whose language only served to make things worse for them in the realm of public relations.
Today there is a divide among fans and journalists due to the growing scope of this story, but the clear majority still backing Bailey.
From a business sense the Clippers have a point. They have every right to protect their brand from unauthorized use. To be fair Bailey's blog does have a contact link to get him to make appearances, advertisements from a sports restaurant and a real estate company, and a page of apparel with 'Clipper Darrell' or his likeness on them.
Those advertisements however, may come from connections to his car customization shop. The apparel doesn't have the Clippers logo on them. As far as appearances he doesn't seem to make any that can be considered nefarious.
While this has been happening Bailey has kept silent until Saturday, March 3. In an interview with Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel, he expressed his sadness about the ordeal along with giving his side of the story. In a television interview on the Los Angeles ABC affiliate yesterday he broke down in tears after being read the statement from the Clippers.
Between those two interviews the most striking line was Bailey's last quote from the Yahoo story.
“Can you still love a team and hate the organization?”
The answer from most sports fans is yes. Three great examples of this type of relationship are Miami Dolphins fans, New York Mets fans, and Washington Redskins fans. Yet, neither one of the franchises have done what the Clippers have done. That is to publicly excommunicate their most well known fan.
Only the Clipper can ruin their own feel good story.