I just wanted to dash off some very quick, very angry thoughts about the lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. As Aaron covered yesterday, while Sterling’s comments were reprehensible, he has a checkered record when it comes to race relations. But in the final calculation, it really doesn’t matter whether the guy is a racist or not. What is important are the troubling implications for free speech and civil society.
Sterling became embattled because of comments he made that were recorded surreptitiously. Can everyone calling for his beheading honestly say that they would be comfortable with their least proud private moments being released to the public without their consent? No? Then they need to rethink their position on the issue. The views Sterling expressed were odious, to be sure, but I’d wager that we’ve all said and done odious things behind closed doors. And remember, what’s acceptable to say today can change tomorrow. Perhaps you or someone you love is guilty of thought crimes. Those on the official right side of this issue had better make sure that they never find themselves on the wrong side of an issue in the future.
It is also interesting that the league leveled a lifetime ban against Sterling. What, was drawing and quartering in the public square too cost ineffective? They couldn’t have suspended him for a few seasons first, just to test the water? The powers of racism are apparently so corrosive that they are incurable.
This is another in a string of recent, sad moments for free speech. I know, I know. The freedom of speech only applies to government intervention. But the entire point of free speech is undermined when the norm becomes swift and decisive consequences for saying the “wrong” thing. And as per usual in situations of this nature, the government didn’t quite stay out of it. Obama took time out of his doubtless busy schedule on a foreign trip to denounce Sterling. Worse, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a retired NBA all star who met with Silver in his capacity as chairman of the players union to call for Sterling’s ouster said “I hope that every bigot in this country sees what happened to Mr. Sterling and recognizes that if he can fall, so can you.”
So the norm should be that people who make ill advised and embarrassing comments in private should “fall”? What a lovely state the left is building.