Not only the sports community, but the entire nation was taken aback over the last couple weeks when the news of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s discriminatory comments were made public. In the ensuing days, the entire world watched, waiting to see what action the league would take. Then NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made one of the swiftest, most just, and decisive moves I have ever seen a commissioner of any major sports organization make. His banning and fining of Sterling sent the clear message that racism will not be tolerated today or in the future.
Then, demonstrating strong leadership, Commissioner Silver did something that I didn’t expect by acknowledging the African-American trailblazers of the game, including my father. “To the pioneers of the game like Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, Sweetwater Clifton, the great Bill Russell, and Magic Johnson, I apologize,” said Silver at a press conference in New York on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, almost 64 years to the day that my father was drafted to the Boston Celtics in 1950, officially breaking the color barrier in the NBA.
That short sentence moved me and my entire family because of Commissioner Silver’s respect and appreciation for what my father endured because of his race, as well as his contribution to the NBA and to major league sports.
The man who doesn’t get the credit he deserved is Walter Brown, former owner of the Boston Celtics, who stands on the opposite end of the spectrum relative to Donald Sterling. Brown took a major financial risk when he drafted my father and said the following words when another owner questioned him for his decision:
“I don’t care if he’s striped or polka-dot or plaid—Boston takes Charles Cooper of Duquesne!”
Walter Brown’s words set the wheels in motion and were echoed in Commissioner Adam Silver’s apology and sanctions. Walter Brown’s spirit is alive and well in today’s NBA. Thank you, Commissioner.
Chuck Cooper III
President and Founder
Chuck Cooper Foundation