Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Donald Sterling, Racism And Free Speech In America...

Donald Sterling, the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, made some disparaging remarks about black people to his former girlfriend, which she secretly recorded and has recently released to the public.

Sterling's comments were offensive to anyone who believes judging others and/or treating them differently based on the color of their skin is wrong. The country reacted swiftly and decisively, condemning Sterling for what he said. Everyone from talk show hosts to the President of the United States condemned Sterling. Then things got out of hand.

Before I address how things got out of hand I have to ask a question. Why is it that President Obama is so quick to condemn anything that appears to be racist against black people yet completely ignores incidents that are the other way around? The President weighed in on the incident involving his friend, Professor Gates. His now infamous statement "I don't know all the facts but the police acted stupidly," was followed by the equally infamous "beer summit" to make himself look like a peacemaker smooth things over. He involved himself in the Trayvon Martin controversy, helping to turn a tragedy into a divisive and incendiary racial incident. And the other day, while speaking in Kuala Lumpur, he responded to a reporter's question about Sterling. And while this time I did agree with what he said - he has never, to my knowledge, made any statements about incidents in which a black person does something atrocious to a white person.

As for Sterling - people are demanding that he be forced to give up ownership of the Clippers because of his comments. Unless there is something in the purchase agreement that limits freedom of speech I'm not sure how that works. You have a private conversation with someone that the other person (illegally, it seems) records and makes public in which you make statements that clearly show your dislike and animosity toward another race and because of that someone can make you give up something you own? When did that law pass?

Not that I'm supporting Sterling. I think he's a jerk. But is there a clause someplace in the law or the contract that says "You can own a sports team unless you're a racist,"?

The fact that Sterling's comments were so widely decried by so many people, and that public reaction to the comments was so quick and profound, proves that racism has definitely changed in America. Sure - it's out there... on all sides. But race relations as a whole have improved in this country. Or they had until Barack Obama became President. Since then I believe there is more racial animosity and that it's constantly being stirred up by the left, and by the President himself.

The NAACP weighed in yesterday and very graciously said that there is room in their organization for forgiveness. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Sterling donates money to the NAACP on a regular basis. Sterling is also a Democrat and has donated large sums to Democrat political candidates as well. I wonder if he donated to Obama...?

NBA great, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, commented publicly on the situation in a surprising way.

"Again, there’s no excuse for his positions. There’s no excuse for what he said. There’s no excuse for anybody to support racism. There’s no place for it in our league, but there’s a very, very, very slippery slope."

“If it’s about racism and we’re ready to kick people out of the league, OK? Then what about homophobia? What about somebody who doesn’t like a particular religion. What about somebody who’s anti-semitic What about a xenophobe?"

“In this country, people are allowed to be morons.”

"Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy in such an un-American way? Although the impact is similar to Mitt Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that Romney was giving a public speech. The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime. We didn’t steal the cake but we’re all gorging ourselves on it."

Personally, I think Sterling's players should go on strike against him. If he professes his dislike of of black people by saying "Don't bring them to my games," why don't his black players take him up on that? They could simply not show up at game time. Think about it. The crowd gathers waiting for the players to come out onto the court for the warm-up session... the opposing team takes the floor for their session... and a handful of Clippers players, none of them black, come out onto the court. What a shock that would be and what a disappointing night Sterling would have. He'd have to refund the ticket prices to the fans, at the very least. And that would be poetic justice.

Yesterday afternoon, after I had finished the first part of this, Donald Sterling learned his punishment for his stupidity. He has been banned from the NBA for life. (At 80 years old that may not be a very long time but it will hurt him.) Apparently there are race related bylaws in the NBA platform (I learned this from a friend who follows it) and that's what they're using to sanction him. Forcing an owner to sell a team is up to a vote of 3/4ths of its members. It is rumored that they already have the votes to force him to sell.

So my question has been answered. Sterling can be forced to sell the team that he owns - not because of a law but because of bylaws of the NBA itself. Those bylaws may sound harsh to some but if you become a member of something and you sign on the dotted line to follow the rules you cannot complain when you're punished for violating them.

Often in life stupid things people do don't really effect them too much. Once in a while a stupid act catches up with you and bites you on the butt. That seems to be what happened in this case. Oops.

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