Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Two Sides to the Clipper Darrell Saga

For the most part our site has refrained from talking much about Clipper Darrell. To be honest, we were never the hugest fans of his. Allow staff writer Vince Robbins to explain...

Clipper Darrell has been a fan of the Clippers for a decade and a half, a season ticket holder for most of that time, and is easily recognizable as THE Clipper fan, wearing the red & blue suit and chanting "Let's Go Clippers, Let's Go!" His bit was a lot of fun, until, as long time Clipper fans ourselves, we got to know Clipper Darrell a little bit better. Not that we became personal friends with him, but after observing him over the years (including a few personal interactions), he just didn't seem as awesome as we first first thought he was.


There was a period a few years back when Darrell went from quirky, staunchly devoted super-fan to spammy, branded character-for-hire. His website, his Facebook, his Twitter, his events...they all just got to be too much. Some of us de-friended him on Facebook, or at least threatened to under our breath on often occasion (gotta love the passive aggressive de-friend move - very 9th grade girl). It wasn't fun anymore when you were getting constant status updates, messages, and event invites to all of these things that seemed unnaturally, and overbearingly, sales-ish. It became clear that he was firing on all profiteering cylinders and monetizing the Clipper Darrell image at every turn.

It's totally understandable for the Los Angeles Clipper organization to take a step back and analyze the situation from a business standpoint. Here is a guy who is not only receiving complimentary seats from the organization for several years, but is then creating an entire image based on their organization, from which he is most definitely profiting (who knows how much). Darrell also made constant public appearances (also monetized) in which he was clearly associating himself with the Clippers logo and organization.  It's fair enough for Clippers executives to approach Darrell in attempts to hammer out something a little more mutually beneficial, not to mention lawful. We don't know exactly what was said to him, but from what it seems like, the Clippers said something along the lines of, "Hey Darrell, we aren't going to keep giving you free seats, and you need to stop infringing on our copyrights." Clipper representatives have made it clear that they never banished him from the arena or told him not to be a fan, and that they made repeated efforts to consult with him about his enterprising. Sounds pretty reasonable to me. We live in a society where if someone owns and operates a business, and somebody else is profiting from that business, they will be approached, reprimanded, and asked to amend those practices. (It should also be mentioned that this is the biggest year in Clippers history, where the organization has the chance to capitalize on their newly-minted superstars and make some serious money.)

From what I can tell, Clipper Darrell wasn't stripped of his ability to be a Clipper fan—he was stripped of his ability to profit illegally off the team. There's an important distinction there. Darrell himself is historically inarticulate, and expressed very little in his own written statement other than his devastation that the Clippers "no longer want him to be Clipper Darrell." 

Having said all that, the fact of the matter is, deep-down Clipper Darrell is probably a good guy who loves his team.  Let's be honest, Darrell might not be the savvy business men that we are, or be so astoundingly smooth and natural at the art self-promotion, but he's coming from a place of actually caring about the Clippers. Along the way, he garnered a little bit of fame, saw an opportunity to try to make it his living, and went for it. Do we blame him? Definitely not. At one point, he was even offered a job by Mark Cuban to be a super-fan for the Dallas Mavericks, which he politely declined. If Mark Cuban flew us to Dallas and offered to pay us to write HaveToMav.com, would we? Fuck yes we would! 

But let's be honest, if HiptoClipp.com was making a lot of money (...or any at all), the Clippers would surely contact us in regards to our blatantly infringing logo. That's the way it works. They wouldn't be robbing us of our right to express our opinions on the Clippers, or attend games, or support our team, or be fans who think it's Hip to Clipp. We wouldn't think of this as the organization not wanting us to be great fans, but rather fans who respect standard copyrighting laws.

There is also no doubt that he became an identifiable part of the Los Angeles Clippers experience, something that the Clippers organization surely benefited from. Over the last decade of abysmal performance on the court, Darrell was providing a pretty entertaining spectacle off the court. He was a Clippers icon, and although we had grown to be somewhat annoyed by Darrell over the years, we intentionally avoided voicing that opinion here, because when it comes down to it, he is a true fan and someone that other fans respect.  

The Clippers management needs to understand that sports franchises are not merely an athletic-money-making-spectacle. They are an emotional attachment. A childhood of memories. Hundreds of hours of commitment. The foundation of friendships. A source of identity. And nobody else has a stronger Clipper identity than Darrell Bailey. Naturally, fans will react negatively. 

13 comments:

  1. How can you not address the timing of their C&D? They had flown Darrell to Phx for a game 7 playoff when they were universally voted Worst Franchise in sports, but decide to pull legal moves once the team has merchandising heat? It's tacky on all fronts to decide this now, after supporting his fandom for years. No matter how shady Darrell's side Clippers jobs ever were, they knew about it for years, and admit themselves that these "meetings" just started this season. They knew about everything he did during losing seasons and only decided to flex their muscles when the team finally became a team. They even expressed love for him when he rejected a paying job with Mark Cuban and the Mavericks. Consistency is important when you are a franchise or business that depends on community (which in a lot of cases, with 2012 social media, might be the most important court of all). I am a season ticket holder, and this reeks of Sterling's heartless business practices. No matter who has the right of way here, it was done terribly from a marketing (the field I work in), and human, standpoint. Every team in the NBA will now make a move for him, and sadly he probably won't take it.

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    1. Couldn't agree more that it was done poorly from a marketing standpoint. That's obvious in the overwhelming backlash from fans and players. As far as from a human standpoint - we don't really know. From the way the Clippers describe it, it seems pretty reasonable. From the way he describes it... Well, he didn't describe much, but obviously he feels it's despicable.

      We did mention the timing. They are running a business, and at a time when they have the potential to be most profitable, and similarly Clipper Darrell has the opportunity to become most profitable in his ventures, they decided he was making considerable amount of money from their success and it was time to sit down and talk about it. Doesn't seem like Darrell was too interested in talking. Was it tacky? Yeah, sure. And trust, we are no cut-throat business folks over here at HtC, but that's how big corporations function (and the law supports them) and it's to be expected.

      We tried to be fair and show our support for Clipper Darrell, but also be tempered and not throw ourselves emotionally on his side. It's an interesting sports story line, that's for sure.

      Thanks for your well-articulated comment. Good discussion!

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  2. Please explain what copyright he is infringing on. The word 'clipper'? the colors blue and red? C'mon guys

    Oh yeah. And the Clippers statement i just plain insulting: "No good deed goes unpunished", "He is not actually a fan of the Clippers, but a fan of what he can make off the Clippers."

    http://clippers.ocregister.com/2012/02/29/clippers-statement-regarding-clipper-darrell/

    Stay Classy

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    1. The Clippers statement was pretty harsh. But so were his, especially if they are as unfounded as the Clippers claim.

      As far as copyrights: He is very clearly identifying himself with the Clippers organization. We're no lawyers, but using the name, logo, and colors in direct relation to the basketball franchise and profiting (potentially very considerably) from it? Selling merchandise, hosting public events, and commissioning appearances. All of this is on his website. If we had a group called "The Nike Boys" and we were very clearly mimicking the Nike brand and profiting from it, wouldn't Nike eventually reach out to us threatening legal actions? Almost certainly.

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    2. Also, thanks for the comment. Appreciate the dialog!

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  3. Darrel was not ashamed of the Clippers when they sucked. Now that they are having success the Clippers are cutting him off. It doesnt seem right. I get the infringement accusations but it should have been handled better

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    1. He also wasn't monetizing like crazy when they sucked. Now he is. And more power to him, we'd do it too. But then there's the law.

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  4. Thanks for defending the Clips. No other media outlets seem to have caught on the fact that Clipper Derrell was a (2nd?) class profiteer.

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    1. Just trying to offer a balanced look at the situation. By no means do we think the Clipper organization is infallible... Far from it.

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  5. Seeing the initial headlines about Clipper Darrell, I was thinking "What is matter with the organization for getting on a fan like this?" But I also figured there was more to it. I came across your blog in my search for more info. There are two sides to every story, and this was a well-written reasonable article explaining where both sides are coming from, something that is sometimes difficult to find in the media or on the internet.

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  6. I feel bad for the Clips on this. They finally get a break for their basketball related decisions and a guy who has presented himself as their biggest fan tries to bring them down. What other professional team would tolerate this? The sad part is the corner Daryl just painted himself into. Where does he go from here? He just bit the hand that fed him. This screams of a desperate man doing desperate things. I'm now mad at myself for wasting 15 minutes of my life on this.

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  7. Clipper Darrell took a real cheap shot at the team, just as everyone else does when they are fired/divorced from the team (see: Elgin Baylor, Mike Dunleavy et al). I think it's atrocious for someone to kick something when it's down knowing full well they will win their battle in the court of public opinion. Although not wholly undeserved when you factor in the franchises' past. This speaks as much about the classlessness of men as much as the dysfunction of my favorite team. Just thought I'd point that out.

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