In 2014, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was slapped with a lifetime ban from the NBA, and by all accounts he’d worked hard to deserve it. Now two Oscar-nominated actors have been recruited to bring the story of Sterling to the screen. Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) and Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook) will play the leads of the upcoming FX miniseries The Sterling Affairs.
According to Deadline, Laurence Fishburne will be playing Doc Rivers, who was Head Coach for the Los Angeles Clippers at the time the Sterling controversy erupted. Jacki Weaver will play Shelly Sterling, wife of the besieged Clippers’ owner. The series is being written and executive produced by Gina Welch (Castle Rock), adapted from the ESPN 30 for 30 podcast that recounted the story of Rivers and the Clippers.
As recalled by ESPN, in 2014 a recording was released that came close to shutting down the NBA. The recording was made by V. Stiviano, Donald Sterling’s young mistress. In the recordings, Sterling is heard making a number of blatantly racist comments. In particular, there was something the former Clippers owner said after seeing a photo on Instagram of Stiviano posing with basketball legend Magic Johnson. Sterling told his mistress that it bothered him Stiviano chose to “broadcast” that she was “associating” with Black people. The recordings have him insisting Stiviano not bring any Black people to Clippers games.
The release of the recordings made life difficult for a lot of people, including for Doc Rivers — the character Laurence Fishburne will assume in the upcoming series. The new NBA commissioner Alex Silver found himself facing a possible walkout from players on every team, including the Miami Heat’s LeBron James. The controversy came during the playoffs, which saw the Clippers facing the Warriors, and put players on both sides wondering whether or not they should show up. Players were being pressured from not only friends and family to stay home, but even celebrities. Then a guard for the Clippers, Jamal Crawford said rapper Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest reached out to him and urged him to not play. Finally, before Game 5, Silver announced Sterling was banned for life.
Presumably, The Sterling Affairs will not focus so much on the titular owner, but on the challenges he forced others into and the damage it did. The Laurence Fishburne character, Doc Rivers, was already under more stress than most of us are used to trying to get his team — not historically the best in the NBA — through the playoffs. At the same time, Sterling’s remarks put a new, unbelievable pressure on Rivers and the Clippers players. ESPN says that on one hand the players supported the principles behind a potential walkout. On the other hand, they resented the idea of Sterling’s racist comments controlling their team’s destiny.
So far, Laurence Fishburne and Jacki Weaver are the only actors whose casting have been announced. We don’t yet know who will be playing any of the Clippers, Sterling’s mistress V. Stiviano, or Sterling himself. No premiere date has been released for the miniseries.