Post Classifieds

Sterling price could cost us all free speech

On May 5, 2014

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, worth an estimated $1.9 billion, received a lifetime ban from the NBA and a fine of $2.5 million for remarks made during an obviously baited conversation with his girlfriend regarding African Americans. The danger is a precedent that could cost far more to free speech.

I understand this punishment. What troubles me is that a person’s thoughts spoken privately could cost them so much in a country that touts freedoms of speech and expression.

The girlfriend, V. Stiviano leaked the tape to TMZ, a recording that, under California law, was illegal to take given Sterling had no idea it was happening at the time.

Even if baited, there’s a lot we can determine by the things Sterling said in the recording. He has issues with people of color. He doesn’t like to have his girlfriend showing up with minorities, taking pictures and posting them over social media.

We can also determine from the punishment how much private conversations can cost you.

Never mind the illegally obtained recording, what if an owner is against gay marriage and that is made apparent in the same manner as Sterling’s racial opinions?

What if an owner were to make degrading comments about women? What if an owner said the same thing about white people, Hispanics or Asians? Would he receive this penalty? Do these instances deserve the same punishment?

Going forward it will be interesting to see how the association deals with similar situations. This can’t be the end, even if other owners would wish it so.

Detroit News columnist Terry Foster thinks other owners might be nervous.

“…some owners…want this thing to go away as quickly as possible. They definitely don’t want things coming out of their closet.”

Apparently the Bentleys, the Ferrari and house Sterling bought Stiviano wasn’t enough to motivate her to keep their private conversations private. A word to the rest of you owners: Keep your mouth shut or you too could receive this type of punishment.

There’s more to this story that should be examined, including the lateness of the intense indignation that’s got the nation in a racial tizzy.

Former LA Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar commented on this “outrage” in a recent opinion piece in Time Magazine.

“If we’re all going to be outraged, let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident,” he wrote. “Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played.”

“Let’s be outraged that whoever did the betraying will probably get a book deal…”

As Jabbar also points out, public records provide Sterling had been preventing African Americans and Hispanics from getting public housing.

It’s unbelievable to think, before this story broke, Sterling was going to be recognized by the Los Angeles NAACP chapter with its first annual lifetime achievement award in celebration of their 100th anniversary.

What’s funny is despite the NAACP being able to ascertain Sterling’s sentiments regarding race, they were going to award him anyway. According to the Clipper’s website, the NAACP has recognized Sterling with awards in the past. (Keep in mind, off-color Sterling remarks have surfaced before.)

UCLA, Sterling’s alma mater, is also rejecting a $3 million gift intended for kidney research because of the recent “divisive and hurtful comments” the owner made, according to a university spokesperson in a recent press release.

Sterling is not a newly discovered racist – his history of idiotic comments is well documented. His remarks should come as no surprise, but the severity of his punishment for ignorant and stupid statements should put fear in all.

Again, the motivation is understood. But only now, as Sterling’s girlfriend releases this illegally taped conversation does his flagrant ignorance become an issue for the NAACP, NBA, UCLA and the country.

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