Donald Sterling: So many questions – here are a few answers

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LA Clippers - Wallpaper
LA Clippers - Wallpaper

LOS ANGELES, April 30, 2014 — Rarely does a person or event come along that manages to unite virtually everybody. Soon-to-be former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has received nearly universal condemnation after audiotapes of his racist remarks surfaced.

Newly installed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver conducted a swift yet thorough investigation. Upon determining that the tapes were not doctored and the voice making racist remarks was indeed Sterling’s, Silver brought the hammer down. While most watchers expected a suspension, Silver pleasantly surprised even the most hardened of cynics; he gave Sterling a lifetime ban from the Clippers and the game. Sterling cannot be an owner or even a spectator. He is finished forever with the game of NBA basketball. The other NBA owners are expected to rapidly move to force Sterling to sell his team. Silver is confident the required three-fourths vote for expulsion will materialize.


READ ALSO: The lifetime ban has been instituted and Donald Sterling no longer matters


While this would appear to be wrapped up in a tidy little bow, there are some people uncomfortable with the action taken against Sterling. They agree that his words were deplorable, but that taking away his team goes too far. This leads to some questions that deserve answers without the natural emotion that comes with such highly charged situations.


Does it matter that that Sterling was secretly recorded, and that he is a victim for having his private thoughts publicized?

In the legal arena, yes, but not from a basketball standpoint. Sterling’s 31-year-old girlfriend V Stiviano did secretly record the octogenarian without his knowledge, a violation of California law. She could face charges. Had she doctored the tapes, Sterling could have a defense. He admitted making the racist comments. While being racist is legal, the court of public opinion has a different mechanism for enforcing decency.

Is Sterling’s right to free speech being violated? 

No. The First Amendment deals with the United States government. The NBA is a private entity. There is no right to free speech in private corporations. Sterling is not being censored. He is not being jailed for his remarks. The free market in the form of pressure on other owners is why they will vote to oust Sterling. If public pressure overwhelmingly supported Sterling, he would most likely have survived this storm.

How can the league take away Sterling’s team? How can his private property be confiscated? 

While Sterling technically owns the team, he is part of a socialist collective known as a professional sports league. The NBA has its own constitution that includes various clauses about punishment for conduct detrimental to the league. The other owners have every right under their bylaws to force Sterling to sell the team.


READ ALSO: Donald Sterling’s racist rant: The surprise is that it was a surprise


Can the league keep the profits from the sale or devalue the Clippers to avoid enriching Sterling any further? 

No. Sterling bought the team legally. The league can force a sale, but cannot conduct a fire sale. The league has a responsibility to maximize profits as any business would. The league has a fiduciary responsibility to get maximum value for the Clippers, who could fetch as much as $1 billion. Sterling would keep 100 percent of the sale proceeds. In America, people cannot have their private property confiscated for being mean individuals. The league can kick him out, but he is legally entitled to his money.

Why did the NBA wait until now to take action when Sterling has a history of racial discrimination with regards to his real estate buildings?

Sterling was accused more than once but never convicted of anything. He did settle out of court without admitting wrongdoing. Accusations are not hard evidence, and odious accusations are precisely why the presumption of innocence matters.

Is Sterling a Republican or a Democrat?

Sterling is a registered Republican, but party registration is irrelevant. Plenty of Americans vote for and donate money to people of a different party than the one they are registered with. What matters is the money trail. Sterling donated money to Gray Davis, Patrick Leahy and Bill Bradley, all liberal Democrats. Furthermore, if Sterling were truly a Republican, the NAACP would not have bent over backwards to forgive him and give him a second chance after his earlier run-ins with discrimination lawsuits.

With a real conservative Republican, the NAACP would take a much harsher tone. The NAACP claims to be non-partisan, but their track record is that of a far-left organization promoting politically liberal causes often irrelevant to its mission of racial equality. The NAACP was prepared to give Sterling a second lifetime achievement award. If he were a Republican, that would have been as likely as Rush Limbaugh being honored by NOW.

Even though Sterling has refused to express remorse, the NAACP is already talking forgiveness in advance. Sterling is a liberal who has donated money to the NAACP. Money and ideology seem to be trumping principals

Why do Sterling’s politics matter?

Ideally his politics would be irrelevant, but in reality they matter. The late Johnny Cochran once said that “race is a part of everything we do.” Sadly, it may be ideology that affects everything. Whenever anybody commits an awful act, politicos on both sides try to gain strategic advantage. Conservatives in particular are tired of constantly being called racists and bigots for existing and breathing air.

When rancher Cliven Bundy made racist remarks, liberals tied Bundy to the entire conservative movement. Sterling gave conservatives a chance for payback. While this guilt by association is destructive for society, liberal Democrats refuse to stop and conservative Republicans refuse to engage in unilateral disarmament.

Who is a voice of reason for obtaining further information?

Sports commentator Stephen A. Smith gets it. While he speaks in over-the-top bombastic tones that are hilariously mocked on Saturday Night Live, his points are lucid, reasonable and straight analysis without biased editorializing. So far he has been the best authority for commentary on this whole sordid affair.

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  • The ongoing public discussion as to whether these recordings were made illegally ignores the statement provided to TMZ on Sunday, April 27 by V Stiviano that she regularly recorded her conversations with Donald Sterling as his “archivist” not only with his knowledge but at his request, and frequently played them back to refresh his memory of events. Her attorney Mac Nehoray has reaffirmed this several times. Whether you believe this is true or not, it’s clear both Stiviano and Nehoray are well aware of the law governing consent to record and are covering their bases. Illegal or not, the genie is out of the bottle for Mr. Sterling.

  • “. In America, people cannot have their private property confiscated for being mean individuals. The league can kick him out, but he is legally entitled to his money.”

    Although Sterling is a moron I seriously doubt they can fine him 2 1/2 million dollars for anything he said.
    If that were the case I’d owe every Liberal and half the women I’ve known on 2 1/2 million.
    As you said, its not illegal to be racist and the league as a private entity can decide their policy.
    Even if Sterlng agreed to a contract that allowed such a fine for racist comments I doubt its legal.
    I learned a long time ago that just because someone prints up an agreement and the two parties sign it,(H&R Block) its not necessarily legal and binding.

    • blacktygrrrr

      Actually Micky the league constitution can impose such a fine. Owners are routinely fined when they cross the line. Several NFL owners have faced fines in the last few years. They all paid them.

      eric @ the Tygrrrr Express

      • Yeah, but why pay if you’re banned for life from any affiliation ?

        It would make sense if the fine were a condition of him staying on, as most all owners have when fined.

        The league has taken a huge part of his livelihood that stood to make him much more than 2 1/2 million in just one year, never mind a lifetime..

        As you said; “In America, people cannot have their private property confiscated for being mean individuals. The league can kick him out, but he is legally entitled to his money.”

        • blacktygrrrr

          The fine is allowed because the league says it is and Sterling agreed to those conditions when he entered the league as an owner. They cannot confiscate his proceeds from the sale, which could be $1 billion. They can fine him the max, 2.5 mil, for a specific offense.

          eric @ the Tygrrrr Express

          • You might be right Eric, probably more so than I.
            But the fine is actually being one of the more debated issues of this scenario. Just because something is printed and signed as an agreement doesn’t necessarily mean its legal or binding.
            The fines you’re referring to being issued were to those who stayed on as a condition of them staying with the league with sometimes a suspension. Am I right ?
            Sorry, for the life of me I cant think of one employer in America whos allowed to fire you and then fine you for the same reason.
            Every day thousands of employees break their companies agreed upon standards of conduct, ethics, behavior, appearance and representation of the company, are fired, and do not have their personal property removed as a condition of termination.
            To pay a fine as a condition of remaining on the league makes sense and seems very legal to me.
            As a condition of banishment and termination makes no sense to me.
            We shall see, its being questioned by some pretty serious legal minds and other owners as not just illegal, but a very slippery slope.