Former pro players react to Clippers controversy

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – It’s the story everyone is still talking about — the NBA punished the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers for making racist comments.

The Commissioner slapped Donald Sterling with a $2.5 million fine and banned him from everything related to the NBA, including games and practices. Now, there’s pressure for him to sell the team.

10 On Your Side’s Anita Blanton talked to some former professional basketball players about the decision. Norfolk native Coach Charlie Hatcher got his start at Norview High School. Wali Jones was a part of the World Champion Philadelphia 76ers’ team in ’67 alongside Wilt Chamberlain. They’re in Hampton Roads this week for the Virginia Squires Legends Reunion, and they say hatred and bigotry have no place in the NBA today.

“It’s no room for bigotry now because this is what we’re trying to build on,” Hatcher said. “We cannot go back. When I played basketball, I was told to dress in the kitchen. Names, throwing things on the basketball court, so we came up during the time when this kind of stuff was accepted. Basketball, and sports at large, are the most transcendental ambassadorial events on the planet, transcending race, color and barriers.”

Wali Jones said one of his regrets in life is not taking a stand when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

“We were 3-1 up on the Celtics,” Jones said. “We voted not to play, but the powers that be said otherwise. I wasn’t man enough to say, ‘I’m not gone play.’ What they did was symbolic of what our society should have. We’re not gonna tolerate this madness.”

The players say they’re proud of the fortitude the LA Clippers have shown in the midst of adversity and the statement Commissioner Silver made, banning Donald Sterling for life from the NBA. But they say the issue is bigger than basketball, and despite how far we’ve come, we still have work to do.

Right now Donald Sterling is vowing not to sell his team. The NBA owners will decide his fate. But of importance here at home are some big names returning for the Squires Reunion, including Basketball Hall of Famer Julius “Dr. J” Erving.

“We’re bringing something back to Virginia that’s super special, bringing the greatest of the greats right back to the Hampton Roads area,” Hatcher said.

The reunion tips off Thursday with a basketball clinic at the Williams Recreation Center in Virginia Beach.

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