Why Silver’s ban of Donald Sterling is wrong

Donald Sterling with girlfriend Vivian Stiviano

Donald Sterling with girlfriend Vivian Stiviano

I took my time in publishing this piece because I wanted to think long and hard before putting this opinion out there.

After all, I’ll be called a racist and a bigot and an ignorant ass by some for even suggesting some of the things I’m about to write.

But it needs to be written.

And I’m used to being called names. I wasn’t that popular in school and being a skinny (not so much anymore) redhead is pretty much the easiest way ever to get made fun of. It doesn’t bother me.

What does bother me is that Adam Silver can ban Donald Sterling from the NBA for life because the two don’t see eye to eye on the issue of race.

Let me first say that despite what you’re thinking, I am not a proponent of racism and it has no place in America or any country for that matter. Racism breeds hate, hate breeds war, war causes destruction. Racism has cost hundreds of thousands of Americans their lives and slavery is a sickening mark on our history that we can’t erase.

But we also cannot erase our constitutional rights as Americans. Rights that guarantee us free speech and the right to disagree with authority.

As hateful and wrong as it was, the things that Sterling said are protected by our Constitution. In this country, you can be as racist as you want, until you take action on those words.

Donald Sterling has every right to be a racist. And because he’s a business owner, he is in a unique situation: he can’t be fired. Even the thought of taking his business away from him for his remarks makes me a bit queasy because of the comparison that draws between our own country and our own oppressive colonizers.

Before the United States of America ever existed, people came here because they were persecuted for disagreeing with the government. Their businesses were seized because they refused to agree with authority. They were separated from their families or fell on hard times for denying the norm. This still exists today and is a huge problem globally.

The fact that Sterling owns a business (and a very profitable one at that) puts his money in our hands as citizens. If we don’t go to Clippers games, he doesn’t make money. If we don’t live in his housing projects, he doesn’t make money. If players don’t go there to play, he’ll be broke and will have no choice but to sell the team or see its value plummet. It’s on us to hurt Sterling’s wallet, not the NBA’s governing body.

Sponsors have already pulled out and that will hurt Sterling’s business, and I expect more boycotts to come. This is the way that is fair and legal for a man in Sterling’s position to be punished.

But now, Sterling can be forced to sell his business if a ¾ Board of Governors vote passes. Surely it will; the fear of being labeled a racist is great- just ask Donald Sterling.

Is this Constitutional? American? Or is it discriminatory, just like Sterling himself? Is Adam Silver actually doing the opposite of what he should? Sure, Sterling is being discriminated against for being an asshole, but is that any more legal than discriminating against him for his color?

I’m not attacking Silver as much as I am the NBA’s right to force sale of a team, but Silver certainly could have handled this differently. He’s been the catalyst behind it all, saying that he will do everything in his power to push Sterling out.

Here’s something else for you to think about: the controversial photo that Sterling was so upset about Vivian Stiviano posting to Instagram was one of her with Magic Johnson, who is now right in the thick of things as far as buying the team goes. Could Magic be in on it? Could he have discussed this hit on Sterling with Stiviano? Did Johnson put her up to getting Sterling all hot and bothered while catching it on tape?

Conspiracy theories are abound, and I’m sure my good friend Kyle in Michigan will have something to say about this one. The tape itself was obtained illegally, and the last time I checked, blackmail is also illegal, and this certainly reeks of extortion.

Did he deserve what he got? I think he did. Donald Sterling is a racist bigot who I would avoid at all costs. He is money-hungry, arrogant and hypocritical, and those types of people deserve it when they get bashed.

My problem with this ordeal isn’t that Sterling was punished, it is how it all went down.

  • Heidi

    There’s no right to free speech in the workplace, and it wasn’t the government seeking to restrict Mr. Sterling. So I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s “unconstitutional”. But I’m still disturbed by the whole situation. Because, while I am no fan of Sterling – and don’t agree with or support his stance on racial minorities – I think the guy is the victim of a witch hunt. There have been racially divisive things said by a lot of people in the NBA. But for some reason, people only care when it’s the white guy saying it. That’s a problem. I don’t see white NBA players up in arms and calling for a ban of Charles Barkley because he said the NBA is “a black league”. Isn’t that discriminatory? How come no one has an issue with that? Because, in the NBA, his is the popular opinion; therefore he can speak with impunity. If someone went around saying that MLB was “a white league”, they’d be crucified. True, Barkley is no stranger to divisive sentiment. The “joke” he made on ESPN – “See, that’s why I hate white people”? Or “joking” about going home and beating up his wife. He’s an equal opportunity offender, EXCEPT when it comes to his own race. Because this is about his own, he’s leading the charge against Sterling. White people aren’t the only ones capable of racism and bigotry. If we’re going to take a stand against it we must take a stand against it in all forms, not just the ones that might affect us personally. Otherwise all we’re advancing is hypocrisy.

    • ScottPeceny

      Very good points Heidi and I agree with you. My feeling on the whole racial element is that the more it’s in the spotlight, the more it continues.

  • Jim Hosereder

    Sterling the Racist Moron!
    He’s bad for business! It’s all about the green aka $$$&

  • nasty3

    Nobody is saying he doesn’t have the right to be a racist, or say racist things in private, or public for that matter. But the business he owns is part of an association that effects other people’s business. His hate speech created a hostile work environment for his employees and the employees of every other team that has to associate with his team. My guess is that many of these owners and maybe even the commissioner could care less about what Sterling’s racial views are, but they do care about money and the business. In the wake of his comments, business was about to take a hit. It is likely that the 3 scheduled Tuesday playoff games would have been boycotted by the players. The other owners have the right to protect their own investments and remove a cancer growing in their business concern. Sterling threatens the one thing that we know they all care about, making a lot of money. The Constitution does not apply.

    • ScottPeceny

      I do agree with you here and the fact that the NBA has profit sharing definitely contributes to the fact that the NBA can ban Sterling and force him to sell. Personally, however, I feel this is the wrong way to go about it.

      I believe that consumer and player boycotts would have been a better way to go about it. As someone who agrees with a lot of libertarian ideology, I don’t believe in a scenario where the Constitution does not apply. It governs our entire nation and all citizens within it, including arrogant bigots like Sterling.

      • nasty3

        Yours would be the most elegant solution to the Donald Sterling problem. That being said, it would take much more time, cost the league a lot more money and probably insight a lot of unrest and protest from the players. Regardless of my concerns about his racial views (I might even share them as an entitled billionaire), the best business decision is to clean this mess up as quick as possible. Additionally, there is no guarantee that the strategy would work. He has, for lack of a better term, F-you money. He’s 80 and may be perfectly willing to drag this fight to his grave. The only realistic hope for a resolution to this situation is to vote him off the island. BTW, I’ve always thought of the Constitution as placing limitations on government action. While it can loosely inform individual actions and behavior, personal and business decision should not and cannot be strictly bound to its tenants.