When people learned the Clippers had asked their most notable fan, Darrell Bailey, to drop “Clipper” from his nickname, there was a great deal of outrage. We felt the Clippers were cutting down one of their greatest supporters because now that they’re winning and successful, they feel they can speak out. The Clippers issued a statement accusing Darrell of not actually being a fan of the the team, “but a fan of what he can make off of the Clippers.” Their position was defended much better in an LA Times piece by Bill Plaschke.
Plaschke depicts Darrell as a guy trying to profit off the Clippers and says the team offered him a chance to be paid and treated like an official team cheerleader. The team wants to control what he gets paid, the appearances he makes, and what he says about the team, because they feel he is profiting off of them.
There is some merit to their argument, and they have a right to ask him to go by Darrell Bailey rather than “Clipper Darrell.” But I don’t believe they have a right to control his messages about the team and the money he makes.
Darrell has become well known because he is a great hype guy. Whether he was a fan of the Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, or Celtics is inconsequential — people love him because he makes games exciting. He acquired the “Clipper Darrell” name out of association. You need a nickname for “the guy at the Clippers games with the funny suit who’s always yelling,” so he became Clipper Darrell.
If people want him to attend their wedding, Bar Mitzvah, or game, it’s because he makes events exciting. He became known through the Clippers, but not because of them.
The big issue is that Darrell began receiving free tickets from the team. If the implication was that Darrell had to follow their directives because he was receiving their gifts, then that should have been explicitly stated in an agreement. The longer they went without the issues being addressed, and with Darrell continuing to support the team as “Clipper Darrell,” the harder it became to change the association between the two.
The Clippers have a right to tell Darrell to go by his name, but it wasn’t worth it for the bad PR. Darrell isn’t making enough money as “Clipper Darrell” for the team to confront him. And the biggest issue for most people, myself included, is that the Clippers never would have asked Darrell to drop the name if they weren’t winning and successful. They should remember how pathetic they were the last five years and be grateful they had someone willing to cheer at all their during those awful times. If he happens to make a few thousand bucks on the side, they should let it be.
I never viewed Darrell as some sort of innocent fan getting mistreated. He’s smart and trying to capitalize on his fame. But that doesn’t change that what the Clippers are doing is petty, unnecessary, and the quintessential illustration of what has made them a laughingstock franchise.Google+