Donald Sterling’s White parties, explained: Blake Griffin, others describe ex-Clippers owner’s Malibu gatherings

Donald Sterling, the disgraced former owner of the LA Clippers, goes under the microscope in “Clipped,” FX’s new series that chronicles the scandal that led to Sterling’s lifetime ban from the NBA.

While the league swiftly banned Sterling for a racist tirade in 2014, his negative reputation stems from several scandals and questionable choices made throughout his ownership of the franchise, which he purchased in 1981.

Among the most questionable of Sterling’s dealings were his infamous “White parties,” which, due to problematic connotations and undertones, caused discomfort for many in attendance.

Since Sterling received his lifetime ban, the uncomfortable nature of his White parties has been shared by partygoers, some of whom are former Clippers players. Here is how they described the infamous social gatherings.

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Donald Sterling’s White parties, explained

Sterling and his wife, Shelly, would host White parties at their residence in Malibu, Calif. 

The parties earned their name because all guests were expected to attend while wearing all white. Donald Sterling, however, would be the only person dressed in black.

In 2014, Blake Griffin shared that his first encounter with Sterling was at a White party. Seven years later, he recalled his first-ever White party during an interview with Graham Bensinger.

I show up and I’m by myself in this car pulling up to this house in Malibu, somebody from the team meets me there and they’re like ‘Donald wants to come out.’ And he comes out with like a group of six people and they’re all in white. Donald Sterling is in all black … He comes up, introduces himself and then, literally, walks me around the party for what felt like an hour and a half by the hand. He would walk me around and introduce me to the people at his party like ‘This is Blake, our fabulous new draft pick.’ I would shake everybody’s hands and talk and do that thing and he’d grab my hand and lead me to the next person. I’m 19 or 20 and I was just kind of like ‘Alright, here we go.’ 

A 2010 YouTube video documents the White party in which Griffin and several other Clippers players addressed those in attendance.

In Part 2 of Ramona Shelburne’s “The Sterling Affairs” podcast miniseries, the infamous White parties were explained in further detail. The biggest White parties came at the end of the summer and doubled as a way to kick off the basketball season.

Sterling’s wife explained that the players in attendance would get on stage and many season ticket holders would be there. 

Quentin Richardson, who was drafted by LA in the first round of the 2000 NBA Draft, detailed an experience similar to Griffin’s.

You know, we were there as his guest as the athletes, but then you had his friends and his normal guests. It was like, definitely not the same type of looking crowd as we are. And so for us, we were all kind of standing there and just checking everything out. And it’s like, you know, this is for a lot of us, the first time, this is the first preseason team type owner’s meeting, or house, or any of that, that we’ve ever been to or been involved in. So, I’m just like, I’m going to be respectful, say what’s up, be cool, but then I’m over here. 

Longtime sports analyst Roy Firestone recalled a story involving Wilt Chamberlain, who attended one of Sterling’s White parties during the latter stages of his life.

I remember poor Wilt Chamberlain, who was getting up there, he was almost at the end of his life, and he looked very rail thin to me. He says to me, ‘What what am I doing here?’ I said, ‘You tell me.’ He goes, ‘I don’t even know this guy.’ It was almost heartbreaking.

Ralph Lawler, who served as the Clippers’ play-by-play analyst for over 3,000 games from 1978 to 2019, detailed the uncomfortable nature of Sterling by explaining that he “would hold your hand and he would just not let go. It was really, really uncomfortable … You just wanted to be someplace else.”