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Clippers’ player wonders whether he could cite ‘hostile work environment’ to get out of contract

Apr 29, 2014, 1:01 PM EDT

When a rival owner proposes making all the Clippers’ players – including highly coveted Chris Paul and Blake Griffin – free agents, that’s one thing.

When a Clippers player proposes getting out of his contract, that’s something else entirely.

Stuart Pfeifer, Ben Bolch and James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times:

One Clippers player wondered in a conversation with The Times whether he could get out of his contract by citing Sterling for creating a “hostile work environment.” The player declined to be identified because team members were told not to discuss the matter.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (emphasis mine):

Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.

Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.

It seems the player would at least have a case.

The Clippers’ struggles in Game 4 could certainly be attributed to an intimidating, hostile or abusive work environment. The players definitely didn’t look comfortable on the court, and that could be due Donald Sterling’s alleged comments.

Doc Rivers furthered the perception of an intimidating work environment when he said, “We’re going home now, and usually that would mean we’re going to our safe haven, and I don’t even know if that’s true, to be honest.”

But even a finding in favor of the player wouldn’t necessarily result in a voided contract. The legal process could determine other consequences – like financial penalties – are more appropriate.

A Clippers player getting out of his contract by citing a hostile work environment is at least plausible, but it’s not necessarily an easy legal battle to win.

  1. imnotyourbuddyguy - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:05 PM

  2. McFaddensPulledHammy - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    Again, everyone in Los Angeles knew Donald Sterling’s views. Every player agent knew Donald Sterling’s views. Every coach’s agent knew Donald Sterling’s views. For people employed by the Clippers to now say there was a hostile environment is a joke.

    • imnotyourbuddyguy - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:18 PM

      All true, however now that the cat is out of the bag nationwide, the NBAPA can make the argument that he now hurts the product, and that directly affect how much money they all make.

      Stuff like this is part of potential negotiations/pressure to get rid of him, it’s how the game is played.

    • jeffkx - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      I’m a Cavs fan in the suburbs of Cleveland..during the season/off-season I really only pay attention to the NBA when it involves the Cavs…having said all that, I even knew that Sterling was a racist POS. No one involved with the Clippers should say they didn’t know. They knew.

      • reesesteel23 - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:49 PM

        Doesn’t matter if they knew or not. I know some of the customers I deal with on a daily are racist but I still take their money.

        I keep seeing this argument and its Lame.

      • reesesteel23 - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:50 PM

        However, if they disrespect me, or let there feeling be known, ill tell them to get the f*** out and not come back. As long as they keep it to themselves, gimme the money.

      • sumkat - Apr 29, 2014 at 2:57 PM


        How do you “know” that people are racist, before they “let their feelings be known”

        Sounds to me like you are the one with racist leanings

    • davidly - Apr 29, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      Not if you were drafted. Being exposed to this story might be the first time one’d think they might have such an option.

    • bougin89 - Apr 29, 2014 at 2:58 PM

      It’s not about them knowing/not knowing. It’s having a direct impact on their brand. You think Chris Paul is happy State Farm has “paused” their sponsorship with the Clippers? You think Blake Griffin is happy Kia has “paused” it’s sponsorhsip with the Clippers?

      • bkbell3 - Apr 30, 2014 at 11:26 PM

        An LA times story said Kia and State Farm would continue to use the players in their ads.

    • reesesteel23 - Apr 29, 2014 at 3:13 PM

      LOL Sumkat, you’re something else. I’m a black guy selling farming equipment. I have witnessed folks tell me they don’t want me as a salesman because I am black.

      Hence the reason the comment in question started with….”I know SOME of the customers…..”

      Try to flip the script all you want. You don’t know the half of it when it comes to racism. Nowhere close. Your turn.

    • thomaskouns - Apr 29, 2014 at 3:23 PM

      Some of the best posts ever on this board.

      Sterling is a scumbag and has no place running any business anywhere.

      But if all these folks who are now so altruistic, why did not one of them protest before. Kinda convenient now.

      Finally, no one in the sports media seems to want to bring this issue up.

  3. WillIEverSeeACupInMyLife? - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    If players/coaches were REALLY upset about this, they would sit out, not play, and identify themselves. Give me a break.

  4. ProBasketballPundit - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    THIS IS FREAKING CRAZY!! Seriously people, you’re all losing your minds. Donald Sterling said some hateful words… and not even THE most hateful word. You can’t destroy a franchise because of some words. Or maybe you can… but it’s ridiculous. (PS Donald Sterling has actually DONE much worse things in the past but nobody ever freaked out like this then. So why now? I think everybody is letting others’ outrage influence their own outrage.)

    • imnotyourbuddyguy - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:39 PM

      Nobody is trying to destroy the franchise

      It’s just business people contacting lawyers in an attempt to protect their money. It’s opportunist, but that’s business. Billionaires want profits to increase, if one guy potentially could hurt those profits they will act.

      And no they don’t care if it was private conversation in the end, they care if not doing enough will hurt their profits.

      The only one losing their mind is you, it’s naive to think that business people would ever act outside of their best interests.

    • mackcarrington - Apr 29, 2014 at 3:25 PM

      Have you heard of Paula Deen? She admitted to using one word and lost everything.
      Pay for attention because free speech is too high.

      • jollyjoker2 - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:00 PM

        Don’t use the words ..even if you believe them!

  5. timcast12 - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:30 PM


  6. phillyguyindc - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    I think it would be hard for a Jury of ordinary citizens to side with millionaire athletes on how horrible their work place environment is.

    • sumkat - Apr 29, 2014 at 2:54 PM

      it woudn’t be a jury trial

      • bkbell3 - Apr 30, 2014 at 11:20 PM

        It’s also stupid. What other profession do people show up at your job and boo you and call you names etc. esp. on the road. Wouldn’t that be considered a hostile work place? To let some old stupid racist affect your life over stupid rambling comments to his hooker girlfriend is overly soft. There has been an out pouring of love and support from all races for these players and yes sterling needs to go but now everybody is coming out of the woodwork to try to cash in. I think the player might be trying to better his position by using this to get out of a contract to get a better one or more playing time. I admit i don’t know who the player is.

  7. SBoy - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    Not sure if private comments said: 1-outside of the workplace and 2- never intended to be heard in the workplace (or anywhere publicly), that 3- may have been recorded illegally, can be used to create a hostile WORK environment case… I wouldn’t fault any player for looking into it… just saying it sounds like a legal stretch based on the recordings.

  8. seahonky - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    I want to read about the gold-digging (and now wealthy) bimbo. I want read about her past, her occupation, etc…I’m curious.

    • sumkat - Apr 29, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      i can tell you the occupation…it’s the oldest one on earth

  9. honkerdawg - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    They just want more money from other teams. They don’t even deserve what they’re getting now. This is an excuse to quit

  10. borderline1988 - Apr 29, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    What I dont get is if Sterling’s girlfriend would not have released that tape recorded in the old fart’s bedroom, would any of this be happening? Would any player be complaining about a hostile work environment?
    The obvious answer is NO.
    So how can you possibly argue that a ‘hostile work environment’ exists? Someone please explain to me how a private recording between an old senile man and his gold-digging mistress retroactively changed the players’ work environment.

  11. txmade06 - Apr 29, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    When will PBT run an article on Jay Z wearing his racist necklace to the Nets games?? Tired of the racism double standard..

    • au1978 - Apr 29, 2014 at 3:34 PM

      What racist necklace are you talking about?

  12. sumkat - Apr 29, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    My question…this tape was recorded at his house, correct?

    They’d have to prove he brought a hostile enviorment to the workplace. There’s no law that says you can’t be a racist scum bag at home.

    He’s settled discrimnation suits before, so you have history in your corner, but you still have to prove it was impossible to do your job because of something sterling did in the workplace. Unless more incidents are going to come out (and I would of thought they would have already), I just don’t see them meeting any legal requirmennt for a hostile workplace

    • jollyjoker2 - Apr 29, 2014 at 4:58 PM

      I would agree. The players are in for awhile but that doesn’t mean they will play hard….. I also think the owners bylaws are going to force this guy out…no one is going to side with him on a vote of owners. plus, a player – white or black is not going to want to sign a deal so his franchise is going nowhere.

  13. mstiger1 - Apr 29, 2014 at 6:57 PM

    They aren’t going to win anything anyway. (Bunch of losers) These guys are a bunch of “look at me” players” who care nothing about the team. Ask Doc Rivers.

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