Wake up America, the new NBA is here, and in that new NBA there is no space for bigotry, nastiness, or racism. The pitchfork and torch carrying mob has spoken!
Here’s the thing. I understand that the NBA and the Los Angeles Clippers are a private company and organization. I get that they have a right to choose who they do business with and how they do business. I’m very much in the voluntaryist camp, and I believe all association between all adults should always be voluntary and free of coercion, and I also believe that the NBA and by extension the Clippers have every right to purge someone that could be considered a cancer to their brand.
But this isn’t about that.
It’s also not a constitutional issue. As I said earlier, these are private companies and organizations acting within their rights in any fashion they deem best for business. This is not government restriction, legal sanction, or a tax, fine, or levy issued by an elected official. This is, by the letter of everything I hold dear, 100% legitimate as far as contract and contract law.
That doesn’t, however, mean I agree with it.
Firstly, the lifetime ban part strikes me as a hysterical overreaction. In an effort to pander as quickly and as completely as possible, the NBA moved to ban a crotchety old jackass from his position and banned him from the day to day operations of the team and any other team. That’s a bit much, but he also has to pay a $2.5m fine on top of it and the team’s ownership will be voted on by the other owners who surely will make independent evaluations and not succumb to peer pressure or the pitchfork and torch crowd and Sterling will most likely lose ownership of the team as well.
Not bad for a few remarks made in private that were recorded without his knowledge and probably were done so illegally.
Wait, what? Uh oh, you didn’t think of that, did you?
See this is where the whole thing really starts bugging me. I would never defend what he said. The guy is an asshole living 200 years in the past and harboring views that, while I hate their methods, his critics have correctly pointed out have no place in a league where 76% of the players are black. What’s equally disturbing, however, is the glee with which we’re consuming his comments and passing around the recording as if to say “Hey, we got him, and we’re better than him so we’re gonna shred him now.”
What you heard and what everyone is judging this man on is a private conversation. I’ve often said to people who haul out their perfection as a club with which to bludgeon others that the person without sin should cast the first stone, and this is no different. Let the person who has a perfect life and speaks perfectly of all people at all times hand over all their conversations and let’s pass judgment on them. How many times have you cursed out that chink that can’t drive? Or that nigger talking load on their phone? Or that kike that didn’t tip you?
Oh sure, you may not say it all the time, but if you’re honest with yourself, you’ve said it. Maybe it was once, maybe it was in passing. Maybe it was a quick off color remark you made, but imagine if someone had been recording it and we just started passing it around? Then, imagine we passed it to your employer and you got canned from your job for something unrelated to your job. How bad would that be? How much would you think you had been cheated?
That’s what happened to Donald Sterling.
I’m not defending the content of what he said, but let’s talk about the means by which he said them. It was a private conversation between two people. One of the people, the one who released the tape, is being sued for fraud by the wife of the other. She gets vindictive and releases the tape, thus destroying his reputation.
Do we even take that into consideration? Not for a second. We’re enjoying the juicy details. This should scare the hell out of everyone, really, and yet we’re joyous over how we “got one.”
It’s funny to compare the reaction to this to the reaction that Jay-Z got wearing a medallion from the Five Percent Nation.
In case you haven’t heard of the group, it’s a Black supremacist group that believes that the white people on earth are devils and must be exterminated. The interesting thing is how little crap he caught for doing so. Oh sure the New York Post wrote about it, but that was pretty much the start and end of the story. No outrage, no anger, no gnashing of teeth, and no invitation to not attend further games wearing such regalia.
What do you think is worth? Some doddering old fool whose name barely anyone knew a month ago saying some off-color things to his vindictive girlfriend who’s annoyed she’s being sued? Or some incredibly popular rapper who thinks that a race needs to be wiped off the earth? Well, we know the answer based on the reactions because Donald Sterling is the talk of the town while Jay Z has been utterly forgiven and forgotten.
The other interesting conundrum this creates is the tying of hip-hop culture to the NBA. Regularly there are Hip Hop and R&B performances at games or NBA events. Often spokespeople like Snoop Dogg, who went on his own racist rant a few days ago in response to Sterling’s comments, are used to push the brand and gain it credibility with inner city kids. Does the NBA now think that language is important enough to monitor it when it comes from the celebrities they choose to endorse the league? I’m gonna say not only is that not bloody likely, but a pure pipe dream. Jay-Z, Spike Lee (who doxxed some old couple thinking they were giving out George Zimmerman’s address), and how many countless others have said and done outrageous things and gotten a pass and been welcomed, with open arms, to speak for the league?
Finally, what’s the standard? As the normally hyperbolic Mark Cuban noted, if we vanquish Donald Sterling, then what?
“What Donald said was wrong. It was abhorrent. There’s no place for racism in the NBA, any business I’m associated with, and I don’t want to be associated with people who have that position. But at the same time, that’s a decision I make. I think you’ve got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do. It’s a very, very slippery slope.”
Cuban also went on to say that the NBA would then have to define standards for speech, asking what the league would do about people who were xenophobic or anti-Semitic, a valid concern if we’re going to be policing speech.
When Mark Cuban is the most rational voice on your side, you probably need to rethink what side you’re on.
The removal of Sterling and his punishment for his private statements should be a turning point for us as a country and how we treat each other. Not because we’re meant to be in shock and suddenly be all kumbaya with our black friends, but because this situation goes to the center of everything we hold dear: the right to be an ass privately. Most people don’t agree with Sterling. I’d hazard a guess to say that people that harbor that level of racial resentment probably are in a very small minority in this country, but we get glee out of hanging them in gallows at the public square because then we can hold him up as an example of what we’re not. He’s a sullied sacrificial lamb that must be charred with the fire of our righteousness.
Instead, we should maybe be looking inward at why we enjoy this so much and why we think it’s fun to destroy someone just because they harbor a view that society at large sees as crappy and unjustified because if we’re going to start punishing people for thinking a certain way and not acting in a way that backs it up then we are in for an interesting few years and most of you under-the-breath driving mumblers had better watch your asses because guess what?