Don’t Vilify Those With Vilifying Opinions

Donald Sterling was recently heftily fined by the NBA, all the while being banned from his own team, the Los Angeles Clippers. The decision by the commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, came as no surprise to everyone alike as soon as the comments were made public by TMZ. Racism is alive and well, isn’t it? Well, here is the problem with the entire situation: that was his opinion, and it shouldn’t matter one bit what he believes. Am I ruffling feathers?

What everyone seems to forget is these comments were made in private and were then leaked. How about discussing the issue of an infringement of privacy? Kareem Abdul Jabbar said it nicely in his op-ed when he claimed that even he felt guilty listening to a tape that was unceremoniously released, particularly to an organization like TMZ that thrives on hoopla.

This headline reminds me of a news story not so long ago about the UCI police officer who apparently was an anti-Semite. Students were quick to call for his head. Uh excuse me? Did he do anything wrong? He has a right to believe what he believes, no matter how crazy and deplorable it might be. Was it affecting the way he was doing his job? There was no credible evidence to indict him of any such claim, yet students were quick to put him on the guillotine. Another example would be the former CEO of Mozilla who was ousted after someone dug up a previous contribution he made to a pro-traditional marriage group. How was this fair to him? And in extension, how is any of this fair to Sterling? He was vilified for carrying an opinion that just happens to be contrary to popular belief (or so we would assume; I am sure you know closet racists, I know I do — my parents, for example). Donald Sterling is a public figure, and yes, maybe he does deserve the extra scrutiny, but please make it fair. Did he do anything objectively wrong other than making comments that were degrading to others? No. Were his actions discriminatory? Perhaps. Do other NBA players make racist comments? On a nightly basis. Do they get banned?

Adam Silver was two months removed from his crowning as the new king of the NBA (sorry LeBron) and no sooner was he enjoying his honeymoon from the previous commissioner, David Stern, that he was thrust into major controversy. And like anyone else, he was pressured to make the “right” decision, which was pretty much what everyone expected him to do. And as everyone expected, he sold out. No, it doesn’t matter that Sterling had a track record of doing immoral and baseless things, but it had to be this one instance, this one controversy made known by TMZ of all things, that caused the Silver to fold. This couldn’t have been more of a PR stunt for Silver. He knew how controversial David Stern was, and in the wake of this “opportunity” he capitalized. He became a players’ commissioner. He sold out.

The NBA has been a controversial organization for a long time, and this couldn’t make it any better. On the outside they definitely look better, especially with a commissioner that is willing to throw down Thor’s hammer when necessary. But on the inside they are still a dirty and reviling group of money launderers. As much as I love watching NBA basketball, I try my best to distance it from the actual organization. I love the game, not the corporatism. As an employee of the NBA, the sanctions levied on Sterling by Silver were fair, but under what circumstances? This is the same organization that openly allowed controversial referees paid by other interests to officiate playoff games and almost get away with it until the media steamroller came in.

I am a Lakers fan, but even I have to admit the series against the Kings was a farcical display of officiating professionalism. This is the same organization that fines its players for doing things that are basically human such as arguing foul calls in important games. A player cannot have an opinion? This is also the same league that refuses to publish its own bylaws, leaving anyone and everyone clueless about the amount of jurisdiction they have. Yes, it is this same organization that saved face by doing what everyone wanted, and ousting Sterling for controversial comments. Fair?

Is Sterling still a bane of human existence? Sure. Does he still have his rights as an American? He better. This episode was nothing more than a farcical attempt by the NBA and Silver to look good in the face of someone else’s humiliation. They should start with figuring out who leaked that tape and then go from there.