Not taking sides in Elgin Baylor's lawsuit against the Clippers, but you hate to see it go down like this.
Baylor's served 22 years with the franchise and is an LA icon, after all. Well, let's get right to the ugliness.
Baylor, whose career as an NBA executive was as spectacularly mediocre as his playing career was great, filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the NBA, the Clippers, owner Donald Sterling and club president Andy Roeser in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday. And his recent quotes on the matter are rather jarring. From TMZ:
Baylor claims the team has "egregious salary disparities" based on race. Baylor claims he was told to "induce African American players to join the Clippers, despite the Clippers' reputation of being unwilling to fairly treat and compensate African American players." Baylor says the owner, Donald Sterling, has a "pervasive and ongoing racist attitude."
Baylor cites the case of NBA player Danny Manning, where Sterling allegedly said, "I'm offering a lot of money for a poor Black kid." The suit claims Sterling repeatedly referred to the team as "poor Black kids" and "he wanted a White coach directing the Clippers." Baylor says he personally got stiffed, only being paid $350,000 a year since 2003, when a "Caucasian head coach was given a 4 year, 22 million dollar contract."
Here's the best part. The suit says, "At all relevant times mentioned here, Mr. Baylor was an African American male over the age of 40."
Baylor, the Clippers' former general manager and executive vice president, was released by the Clippers during the offseason in a dispute over his contract.
The lawsuit also maintains Baylor was "discriminated against and unceremoniously released from his position with the team on account of his age and his race." Clippers general counsel Robert H. Platt said "I can categorically state that the Clippers always treated Elgin fairly throughout his long tenure with the team. Prior to his decision to leave the team last October, Elgin never raised any claims of unfair treatment.
"It's hard to believe that he would now make these ridiculous claims after the organization stood by him during 22 years and only three playoff appearances. It would be hard to find any sports team that has demonstrated greater loyalty to its general manager."
And that's the weird part: If the Clippers under Sterling embraced a racist "vision of a Southern Plantation type structure," as the lawsuit states, then why did it take Baylor so long to speak up? But just when you start to figure that Baylor is a nut, you remember that Sterling has been involved in a couple of other lawsuits involving discrimination. In one, the real estate magnate was sued by the U.S. Dept. of Justice for discriminating against black tenants in one of his apartment complexes.
• Elgin Baylor fun facts: His high school grades were so poor that no college would accept him, and he was working in a furniture store until a friend got him a scholarship at the College of Idaho, where he also played football. But the head coach was fired and Baylor lost his scholarship, and then played for Westside Ford, a Seattle AAU team, while establishing eligibility at Seattle University. He was the Lakers' No. 1 draft pick in 1958 and became an 11-time All-Star.
Eligin Baylor-Clippers Lawsuit Update [Los Angeles Times]
Longtime Clippers Executive Elgin Baylor Files Lawsuit Against Team, Owner Sterling And NBA [Los Angeles Daily News]
Lakers Legend Claims Clippers Steered By Racist [TMZ]
Elgin Baylor-Clippers Lawsuit: Another Update [Los Angeles Times]