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.
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.
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.