FX’s sports drama ‘Clipped’ tackles Donald Sterling’s racist downfall

If you pay even the slightest attention to professional basketball, you’ve heard about former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling — and the scandal that led to his lifetime ban from the NBA.

In 2014, during the Clippers’ playoff run, Sterling was caught on tape spewing racist remarks. The news blew open his marriage, drew attention to his personal assistant V. Stiviano, and revealed deep problems within the Clippers organization. In 2019, the scandal became the subject of an ESPN 30 for 30 podcast titled The Sterling Affairs, reported and hosted by Ramona Shelburne. This summer, 10 years after the tapes were released, The Sterling Affairs gets the small screen treatment, coming to FX on Hulu as the six-episode miniseries Clipped.

“For a league that’s majority Black, it’s an important story to re-live,” producer and co-writer Rembert Brown said at the Television Critics Association (TCA) winter press tour. “For players, I feel like there is an element of this that is very relatable to a workplace drama. This is what it’s like to be Black in a white space.”

What’s Clipped about?

Clipped takes us behind the scenes of the Clippers during the Sterling scandal, examining the marital and locker room drama that followed.

Our entry point into the Clippers is new head coach Doc Rivers (Laurence Fishburne), a former Clippers player and Boston Celtics coach looking to turn around the prospects of the most cursed team in basketball. Upon his arrival in LA, though, he discovers an organization where dysfunction is the norm. Donald Sterling (Ed O’Neill) is a racist bully who pits players against each other and who couldn’t care less about winning. His marriage and business partnership with wife Shelly (Jacki Weaver) is crumbling, and his relationship with mistress V. Stiviano (Cleopatra Coleman) isn’t far behind. He’s a powder keg just waiting to blow, and the release of his racist remarks is the spark that finally sets him alight. 

With the NBA in crisis mode, and the internet reacting in real-time to the scandal’s every new development, will Doc and the rest of the Clippers see any meaningful change in their organization?

“I think it’s a great story for the NBA, it’s a real turning point for the league,” showrunner Gina Welch said at TCA.

Laurence Fishburne and Ed O’Neill set to bring Clipped‘s Doc Rivers and Donald Sterling to life.

Clipped stars several familiar faces, including Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, the John Wick franchise) as Doc Rivers. Fishburne revealed at TCA that he met Rivers in person and witnessed him and one of his sports-loving friends arguing about basketball for hours.

“Just observing the two of them go at it was all the research I needed to do for Doc,” Fishburne said at TCA.

Joining Fishburne in the cast of Clipped is Ed O’Neill (Modern Family, Married… with Children) as Donald Sterling, Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook, Hello Tomorrow!) as Shelly Sterling, and Cleopatra Coleman (Infinity Pool, The Last Man on Earth) as V. Stiviano. Other stars include J. Alphonse Nicholson, Kelly AuCoin, Rich Sommers, Corbin Bernsen, Clifton Davis, and Harriet Sansom Harris.

Gina Welch, who has written for Feud: Bette and Joan, Castle Rock, and Under the Banner of Heaven, serves as Clipped‘s showrunner, as well as an executive producer. Ramona Shelburne, Nina Jacobson, and Kevin Bray join her as executive producers, with Bray also directing.

Clipped premieres June 4 on Hulu.

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