Professional athletes found themselves in a precarious situation this year, as racial tensions ran rampant on the basketball court, football field, and behind closed doors.
In April, Donald Sterling's private conversation with ex-girlfriend V. Stiviano went viral. In it, the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers made inappropriate comments about why his “delicate white or delicate Latina” girlfriend shouldn't associate with blacks in public. According to Sterling, it was “painful” to their relationship. After the recording surfaced, Sterling was banned from the NBA for life. Similarly, Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson sold his shares of the team after emails leaked in which he blamed the team's financial woes on its black players.
There was also sports reporter Dan Bernstein. When Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls wore a shirt adored with "I Can't Breathe," the final words uttered by Eric Garner, the unarmed African-American man who died from an impermissible chokehold used by a Staten Island police officer, Bernstein took to Twitter. “I just wish @drose could talk, or really understands what he’s doing. I don’t think he does, but he deserves to be treated as if so,” the Chicago-based reported tweeted.
Members of the St. Louis Rams showed public support for Garner and Mike Brown, the unarmed Ferguson, Mo. teen shot down by a rookie officer, by entering the field with their hands in the air. This "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" gesture has come to symbolize the #BlackLivesMatter movement and protests against excessive police force. These athletes were also criticized, but this time by local law enforcement.
When Ohio Browns player Andrew Hawkins donned a jersey demanding justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford, Cleveland police demanded an apology, which the team refused to provide. Hawkins did, however, go on the record about why he decided to wear the shirt in the first place.
And in D.C., a judged ruled that the Washington Redskins had a right to sue Native Americans over trademark protections allowing them to continue to use their racially charged team name. This year the NFL also made a controversial move to ban the use of the word n****r on the field.