Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Thoughts On Los Angeles Clippers & Their Racist Owner

Unless you've been living in a cave deep in the Amazon jungle, I'm sure you've heard of the controversy involving the Los Angeles Clippers and their owner, Donald Sterling. Sterling let his mouth overload his ass, and was caught on tape spewing his racist views to his girlfriend.

He has since said that what he was caught saying doesn't represent his true views -- but his remarks were obviously racist, and I would tend to believe what he said when he thought he was talking in private over his public statement (which was aimed to try and salvage his reputation and investment).

The real question now is what to do about a racist owner of a team in a league made up predominately by Black players. The NBA seems to have made their decision. CNN reports:

Basketball Commissioner Adam Silver slapped Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling with a lifetime ban from the sport and a $2.5 million fine Tuesday over racist remarks attributed to Sterling.

Silver said the National Basketball Association "will begin immediately" the process to force Sterling to sell the team, which he has owned since the 1980s. . .

Under the ban, Sterling can't go to games, attend practices, make decisions regarding the team or attend NBA meetings. And Silver said NBA owners are expected to provide the three-quarters vote needed to force Sterling to sell the team.

I don't have any problem with the huge fine (the largest fine that the NBA can levy), or the lifetime ban. Sterling's racist comments cast a pall,not just over the Clippers, but over the league in general -- and the NBA needed to take decisive action. But I'm not sure that "forcing" Sterling to sell the team is appropriate. We are not talking about a public entity. The Clippers, like all NBA teams, are a private business, and forcing any citizen (however reprehensible) to sell a business he/she has bought and privately owns sets a bad precedent.

In a free country (which we still claim to be), each citizen is entitled to his own views -- however sick and reprehensible those views may be. Citizens may refuse to give that entity their business, and boycott them for those views -- but that is far different from forcing that owner to sell his/her business. What is next -- forcing owners to sell a business because of religious or political views that we don't like?

Having said that, I do think it would be smart for Sterling to make the decision to sell his team (and like it or not, it is his team). If he doesn't, it will destroy the team. No African-American (and probably most White) players will want to play for a team owned by an obvious die-hard racist. The best players will leave the team in free agency as soon as they contractually can do so -- and the team will be left with only players who cannot get contracts elsewhere (and draft choices, who will also leave as soon as possible). The team will sink to the bottom of the league, and stay there as long as Sterling owns it.

It will be best for Sterling, the team, and the area the team represents, for Sterling to sell the team. And I hope he does that -- but I still think it should be his decision. Sterling bought the team for $12 million back in 1981, and it is now worth around $575 million -- but if he keeps the team that value will go down sharply. He has painted himself into a corner with his racism, and his only reasonable option is to sell.


  1. So much for freedom of speech in 'the Land of the Free'!

  2. The government is doing nothing to Sterling -- and that's all free speech means (that the government will not punish anyone for speaking their mind). It does not mean there will be no consequences for that speech.


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