LA Clippers merchandise is flying off the shelves in Alabama and several other Southern states in the wake of controversial comments by longtime owner Donald Sterling.
TMZ released a video Friday of Sterling, 81, telling his girlfriend not to be seen in public with black people at Clippers games.
The tape is expected to severely damage the financial prospects of the Clippers organization, with several high profile NBA players already calling for boycott of the team.
However, the Clippers are also experiencing an unexpected windfall from the controversy: a huge upswing in merchandise sales from states in the Deep South. The Alabama outlets of Wal-Mart, Dick’s Sports and Hibbett Sports have all reportedly been deluged by new Clippers fans looking to buy clothing and memorabilia.
“We’re entirely sold out of all Clippers jerseys, hats, T-shirts. You name it,” says Jack Brown, manager at Hibbett Sports in Huntsville. “We’re putting in an order tonight for five times what we usually stock. It may not be enough. People love Donald Sterling’s Clippers down here.”
And that love seems to be based on showing support for Sterling’s comments.
“Finally someone has the courage to stand up and say what we’re all thinking,” says Jack Miller, 28, outside a local Wal-Mart. “I mean, who wants to be seen in public with black people? I’m a Clippers fan for life.
“Not to mention Blake Griffin is a good Christian man. They have a Christian star and an owner who hates Negroes. What more can you ask of a team?”
Alabama doesn’t have an NBA franchise in the state and its fan base is split geographically between the Atlanta Hawks, the New Orleans Pelicans and the Memphis Grizzlies.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers often struggle to attract fans because they share their home market with the more popular Lakers.
“It’s a match made in heaven,” says one sports marketing analyst. “The Clippers can now market themselves outside the state of California. Much like the Packers and the Cowboys in the NFL.”