So the new NBA commissioner has laid down the law concerning Donald Sterling, a lifetime ban, a $2.5 million fine and recommendation that the other owners vote to strip him from owning the LA Clippers.
Look, I don’t really have any argument with Commissioner Silver’s ruling here. It’s all well within his rights to do, and when the other owners force Sterling out, it’ll be well within their rights as well. In a game where the overwhelming majority of the players are minorities, having a racist owner is bad for business is so many ways.
Before we move on, though. One point about the many folks on Twitter complaining about Sterling’s First Amendment rights. For the umpteenth time in these situations, the First Amendment protects you from being punished by the government for your speech. If he was being jailed for his comments, you might have a point. There is no First Amendment protection when it comes to those who choose to associate with you, or not, based on your speech. The National Basketball Association, a collection of team owners, is perfectly within their rights to dissociate themselves from an individual owner.
Here’s the problem I have with today’s ruling. Why now? Where was this years ago? This is not Sterling’s first run in with racism. He was actually sued numerous times for actual racial discrimination, not just suggesting his girlfriend not hang around black people. Where was the outrage? Where were the other owners demanding the league office do something, where were the player protests? Why is Doc Rivers just now refusing to work for Donald Sterling, wasn’t all this information about him public at the time he was demanding the Celtics “trade” him to the Clippers? Of course it was.
No it was only after he was taped saying something racist that the NBA took notice, that black players and coaches, the NAACP, the mass media, and everyone else saw him as someone they could no longer do business with.
So what’s the lesson we’ve learned here? If you’re wealthy enough, you can be racist, you can actually discriminate against minorities, and consider yourself a slave owner when you own an NBA team, as long as you keep quiet about it. Only saying something will stir up the internet outrage enough to get anyone to do anything about you.