Recently, an anonymous Lakers fan defaced community courts donated by Steve Ballmer and the LA Clippers. This shouldn’t be laughed about.
Even in these divisive times, during which it sometimes appears like there is so little common ground, it seems that there are basic principles on which we can all agree. For example, we can likely all agree that investing in our communities and in our youth is good. Likewise, we can probably all agree that criminal vandalism of public property is bad. But a recent event in Los Angeles surrounding the LA Clippers has tested those principles.
(Wait, you may be thinking, isn’t this a basketball article? Be patient, I’m getting to that part.)
Over the holiday weekend in Los Angeles, vandalism was found on one or more of the nearly 350 public basketball courts that are being renovated through the Clippers Community Court project, made possible by the generous donations from the LA Clippers as well as Connie and Steve Ballmer. The perpetrator(s) defaced the public property by pasting Los Angeles Lakers’ stickers over the Clippers logo that appears on the glass, on the baskets provided by the Clippers and the Ballmers, in their philanthropic effort to expand access to sports for youth in Los Angeles.
I won’t link to the Twitter post which shows the criminals’ handiwork; there is no reason to give light to their wrongdoing. And make no mistake, this is a crime. California Penal Code §594 provides that criminal vandalism arises when one maliciously defaces the property of another; even if the monetary damage is minimal, vandalism is still punishable by misdemeanor penalties of up to one year in county jail and/or a maximum $1,000 fine.
Nonetheless, Lakers fan Twitter has largely lauded the vandalism. To be fair, a few self-identified Lakers fans have commented that defacing public property is wrong. Unfortunately, the majority of commenters have found this crime to be hilarious. A common theme is that vandalizing the community basketball courts is no different than the Clippers replacing Lakers banners with Clippers images when branding the Staples Center for home Clippers games. Clearly this false equivalence is ridiculous.
Do the Lakers play on the Clippers-branded floor? Do they play on the Kings’ ice?
Of course not.
The arena goes through a re-branding depending on which team is playing on any given day. Vandalism of public property is neither equivalent to branding the arena for the home team, nor is it an amusing form of retribution for covering Lakers banners at Clippers games.
Certainly, the defacing of the Clippers’ logos does not render the courts useless to the kids who want to hoop there. But that is not the point. Vandalism isn’t funny. Substantial acts of generosity provided for those courts. It is childish and amoral to mock that generosity with such a selfish act. Maybe the time and energy this criminal spent in vandalizing public property could have been better spent in volunteering at a community center, children’s hospital, or animal shelter.
If there is indeed a battle for LA, the Clippers are winning. And it’s not just the 2-0 record against the Lakers this season, or the 21-4 record over the past 25 games between the two. Basketball is great, we all love the game and that’s why we’re here. But the Clippers are doing more, they are showing up for the kids in our communities, while some Lakers fans are celebrating one of their own who has defaced public property for amusement. We should all be better than that. LA Our Way.