Here’s your dissenting opinion.

Here we go again talking about sports.  The past few days the sports world has been abuzz because of comments made by the LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling.  For those who don’t know what happened, here’s a very quick summary.  Several months ago Sterling was talking to a woman that he knows, and he said that he didn’t appreciate the fact that she posted pictures of herself with Magic Johnson.  Sterlings exact words from the recording were as follows: “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”  (From the ESPN article found here.)  As a result of his comment getting out, Sterling was banned from all NBA related activities, find $2.5 million, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said that he plans to ask the other NBA team owners to vote to make Sterling sell the Clippers.

Now, from my understanding, this comment was made in Sterling’s home, and a recording was released several months later.  Per Wikipedia, Sterling was suing the woman who released the recording, and she said that she would “get even” with him.

Lets do something that not many other people seem to be doing, and take a look at exactly what he said. It bothers him that someone he knows is associating with black people.  Not a nice thing to say, but I’m sure you could find far more racially offensive articles from the past week, like this article talking about a fan throwing a banana at a soccer player in Spain.  That’s far more offensive to me, but apparently not to the public at large, in part because it’s from Europe, and in part because it’s soccer, a sport most American’s don’t care about.

Let’s take a look at Sterling while we’re at it, according to Wikipedia, Sterling is 80 years old.  This isn’t excusing what he said, but it does lend some context.  We’re a far more integrated society today than we were when Sterling was growing up.  When he was younger, interracial relationships were more rare, and it’s understandable that they might make him uncomfortable.

Secondly, he said he wasn’t comfortable with the girl associating with “black people.”  There are plenty of other more offensive racial terms that he could have used instead of “black people.”

Lastly, lets look at the punishment.  He’s being find $2.5 million, again we go to Wikipedia, which says that his net worth is something like $1.9 billion.  So yeah, it’s a big fine, but it’s not exactly going to send him to the poor house.  Next, he’s banned from anything to do with the NBA, including attending games or even attending a practice, I think this is going a bit too far.  He’s already a fairly quiet owner by comparison to others (Mark Cuban of Dallas comes to mind), and while he hasn’t done a great job of running a winning team over the years, I don’t think there were ever any stories about him not paying players, or refusing to sign black players, so as far as that’s concerned he’s done his job more than adequately.

And now we get to the most damning part, at least as far as I’m concerned.  Silver is going to try and get the rest of the NBA owners to vote in an attempt to force Sterling to sell the team.  He’s the longest tenured owner in the league, and over the time that he’s owned the team the NBA has grown astronomically larger and more popular.  I don’t know exactly how much, but he’s probably had something to do with that behind the scenes.  I think this sets a bad precedent for the other owners.  This is a very, very, small thing, and they’re trying to force him to sell the team.  What happens in a couple of years when the aforementioned Mark Cuban says something to offend someone, is he going to be forced by the other owners to sell the team?  What happens the next time a coach questions a league decision?  Will the commissioner put pressure on the team to fire the coach?  What about when it’s found that a player told a joke with the N word in it when he was a freshman in high school?  Is he going to be suspended?

This whole controversy boils down to two things.  One, we’ve somehow managed to sterilize our culture to the point where having an opinion that differs from the “politically correct views” in any way shape or form means that anyone who might possibly have been offended any time in the past 50 years has every right to crucify you for what you said.  And two, Adam Silver is brand new as a commissioner in the NBA, and he wanted to do everything he could to make sure that people realize that he is the commissioner and he has the power.

Is Sterling a perfect person, no, he isn’t.  But I doubt that he’s anywhere near as bad as he’s been made to seem.  We’ve all vented about things from time to time, and we’ve all said things that are politically incorrect.  If you took a soundbite of the worst things we’ve said in our private moments, nobody would have a job.  In the past week, I’ve heard plenty of things that are far worse than what Sterling said.  Quite frankly, I’ve said more offensive things than what Sterling said in the past week.  This is a stupid situation that got absurdly out of hand.  If I was Donald Sterling, I’d fight this every step of the way, sit court side at the next Clippers home game, and tell Adam Silver to take his lifetime ban and shove it up his ass.

But that wouldn’t be politically correct would it?

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5 Comments

  1. Undergraduate

     /  April 30, 2014

    Finally a sane take on this fiasco. Are we really prepared to allow the thought police to dictate who we HAVE to associate with? Who we HAVE to like? Who it is simply NOT ALLOWED to dislike? Those who would argue that –hey, the NBA is a private organization and they can trample the rights of an owner if they want– are the same people who will simply not tolerate a private bakery, just for example, to refuse service to anyone they deem a “protected” class. Sterling, last time I checked, still was an American citizen and protected by the Constitution, still retaining the right of free association and free speech. In today’s America, however, only approved speech is tolerated.

    Reply
    • That last sentence that you wrote is easily one of the best things that I’ve read all week. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Reply
  2. You make some valid points, but here’s the thing: He quite literally signed multiple code of conduct contracts with the NBA as part of owning a team within the league. Those contracts state very clearly the kind of behavior that is or is not tolerated by the league and he is very much in violation of those contracts. As a result, Adam Silver has solid legal ground by which to ban him from the league, fine him the maximum allowed by the league bylaws, and force the sale of the team.

    Say what you will about free speech and all that, you do have some interesting thoughts in your post, but this sums it up fairly well: http://xkcd.com/1357/

    There is no reason for racism in the world. That much is true, and while he does have the freedom to say whatever he sees fit, he is not immune to the consequences of his actions, of which there are many. Donald Sterling can be a racist if he wants, but he is blind if he thinks that anyone is going to feel sorry for him that he got caught being a racist.

    I do think the woman was baiting him the entire way though, that much is clear and I think she should be facing some kind of heat for entrapment, etc.

    Reply
    • I’ve read and agree with the XKCD comic, and I understand everything you’ve said, but I still think that they made a mountain out of a molehill, and it definitely sets a dangerous precedent when a very innocuous comment can lead to such a harsh penalty.

      Similarly, I read an article today talking about a biography of Michael Jordon, wherein he says that he “was against all white people.” (The article can be found here.)

      Jordon is the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, so presumably he has had to sign the same code of conduct contracts that Sterling did. I consider Jordon’s comments to be just as bad – if not worse – than Sterling’s comments. The precedent has been set, racist comments by an owner will get you banned from the league for life. If we want to pretend that the league is fair in any manner, Adam Silver almost has to ban Michael Jordon from the league for life, and require him to sell the team.

      You’re right, there is no reason for racism, and if we try to look at it objectively, it’s greatly reduced. Sterling’s comments 20 years ago probably wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow, but now they’re getting him banned. We’re making progress, but it’s impossible to expect immediate results. By the same token, racism does go both ways, and in Jordon’s own words, he considered himself a racist, and therefore should be banned.

      And yes, the woman was most likely trying to blackmail Sterling, and to his credit, he didn’t pay her off. I just think that this whole situation is opening a dangerously large can of worms.

      Reply
      • The difference between Michael Jordan and Donald Sterling is that Jordan admitted his racism towards white people as something he struggled with in the past and that he had grown past it. You will notice he referred to it in the past tense during his comments. Sterling’s racism is clearly not something from the past that he’s overcome.

        There is definitely a mountain being made out of a molehill by the media. The story was worthwhile for about two or three days until the league handed down their punishment. After that, they should have moved on to other things. Now the media is turning it into a circus that just makes it worse rather than serving to be informative.

        Is it a dangerous precedent for the NBA to crack down on racism? I guess I am still on the fence with that one. It’s a league full of minority players and so it’s always going to be a hot button issue. I fully agree with the financial punishment (and wish it could have been closer to $50 million as then it would have opened even a rich man like Donald Sterling’s eyes a bit), but the bylaws maxed it out. The lifetime ban… I think I lean toward agreeing with as his presence around players and team employees is not going to be anything but anger inducing.

        The forced sale of the team? Meh, I don’t think they’ll need to force the sale of the team even though they will likely take that step. Leave it be and the team will get sold within a few years anyways as players refuse to come play and coaches won’t coach. Let nature take its course in that one if you ask me.

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