Olden Polynice played for the Los Angeles Clippers twice – first in the early ’90s and again in 2003. Both stints were short, but Polynice had more than enough time to see Donald Sterling for who he was.
And he is in no way surprised by anything that has transpired in recent months.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Polynice said on The MoJo Show. “We had experienced it – myself and other teammates – back in the ’90s when I got traded there and again in 2003 when I returned. It was still the same – just how he talked to people and treated them. I don’t believe he’s a racist in the sense of (being) evil and mean-spirited but he does some racist things.”
“It kind of reminds me – if I can use the analogy – of slave masters sleeping with the slave,” Polynice continued. “They don’t have a problem sleeping with them, but they still treat them as slaves. That’s kind of how he was. He’ll date women of different ethnicities, but the way he talks to people and the way he treats people – sometimes it comes across (as racist).”
Polynice remembers one incident in particular when he first came to Los Angeles.
“He walked (into the locker room) with two of his friends,” Polynice recalled, “and he was rubbing on my shoulders and (saying), ‘Look how strong and broad his shoulders are. Look at his thighs.’ And I was like, Wow, that was just weird for me. The first time I’m (meeting someone,) that’s what you’re doing.”
It was as though Sterling was showing off a car or some other possession.
“There were a couple of situations where you want to say something, but (you didn’t),” Polynice said. “I think we all were guilty of that, the brainwashing. We’d been told and taught not to disrespect the boss and the owner, but this guy took it literally – that he owned you. To me, that was the worst part about it.”
“When stuff like that was happening, we had no recourse. We didn’t know who we could tell or talk to. We talked about it amongst ourselves, but it became a running joke. When we knew he was coming into the locker room, we all just scattered. Guys took two-hour showers.”
Through it all, Polynice tried his best to remain professional – but it wasn’t easy.
“I had a job to do and I enjoyed playing basketball, so I wanted to be the best that I could be and give it my all,” he explained. “But you still want to be comfortable in the work place. (My new teammates) didn’t even warn you about it. It’s like you got to experience it for yourself because you’re not going to believe it. That kind of thing.”
Polynice, 49, believes that the NBA should be held responsible for allowing Sterling to fester in the league for three decades.
“I used the word complicit, and I still use it,” he said. “I do believe the league was complicit in all of this. You had proof, but you chose not to use it and not to go after this guy. What we kept hearing was, ‘Well, he wasn’t found guilty.’ But all these charges keep coming up. I’m sorry, but a person doesn’t have to be found guilty for me to know he’s doing something wrong. If it continually happens, it’s a pattern. And at the end of the day, the pattern (is) what they should have researched and looked out for – and they didn’t.”
If nothing else, Polynice thinks the Clippers should have lost draft picks over the years. That might not change Sterling’s attitude or behavior, but it still would have been a punishment.
“Hey, that’s the only recourse that we have within the bylaws,” he said. “Use what we have. They didn’t do anything – and that’s the problem.”
Still, Polynice believes that Sterling is the last of a dying breed among NBA owners and that the league is very inclusive overall.
“I’m very happy and confident with where the NBA is right now,” Polynice said.