The Donald Sterling Precedent

I hope you will read this op-ed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He’s absolutely right. Donald Sterling is a terrible person. But we have known that for a long time.


He has been sued repeatedly for race based discrimination. He has had to settle those cases. He is married and taking his mistress to games, which too many people find acceptable. But what’s more, it is pretty apparent his mistress goaded Donald Sterling into saying what he said for motivations that still are not necessarily clear.

We’re all upset by the NSA, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar points out, but some are gleeful about what this lady did. But again, we already knew Donald Sterling was a terrible person and the NBA repeatedly failed to act. Repeatedly. They only did so after public outrage over these remarks driven by the press. Then it was a race (no pun intended) to see who could be outraged by them the most.

Now the mob wants Donald Sterling’s team forcibly removed from him, which would earn him several hundred million dollars in the process. Okay. That’s fine. Donald Sterling signed up to be an NBA owner. He knew the terms of the deal. And they knew he was a terrible person and let it go on and on and on until public outrage forced their hand.


The incident that sets the precedent is never the problem. The precedent, however, is now set that if an NBA owner is outted as saying privately things that offend publicly while being surreptitiously taped, the mob can force the NBA to force him to give up his team, fine him, and ban him for life. Again, Sterling isn’t being punished for being racist. We already knew he was given his history — which, by the way, begs the question of why the NAACP was going to honor him?!?! It seems even groups like the NAACP were perfectly happy to coddle a man like this and take his money despite his documented history until it became inconvenient for them all.

Sterling is being punished for having his documented views made public in a recording that personalizes multiple sterile legal disputes against him from several years ago that the NBA chose to ignore. The NBA cannot ignore it now that the public is outraged — and, lest anyone misread me, the public deserves to be outraged.

But the public should also be outraged that the NBA had to be embarrassed. And the public should be embarrassed that so many are running with a possibly illegally and definitely surreptitiously made recording that was pretty clearly designed to get the guy to say those things. As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote:


the poor guy’s girlfriend (undoubtedly ex-girlfriend now) is on tape cajoling him into revealing his racism. Man, what a winding road she led him down to get all of that out. She was like a sexy nanny playing “pin the fried chicken on the Sambo.” She blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing themselves with glee.

With the precedent now set and with society descending to ever more daily outrage over ever more innocuous things, woe to the owner caught on tape opposing, well, we don’t know. But we can surely speculate. This is only the beginning.


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