Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On the NBA, Donald Sterling, and the right to hate

So this week we were again reminded that racism is alive and well in the good ole United States. Is anyone really surprised?

Sure we feign -- or legitimately feel -- moral outrage, or disgust, at the likes of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who thinks black/African-American people would be better off as slaves, and L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who doesn't like the idea of his alleged girlfriend, his African-American-Mexican girlfriend, going to basketball games with black guys.

And we should feel outrage, or at least disgust. Hate speech of any kind is abhorrent.

But while there are laws about discrimination in the work place, it is not illegal to say racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic things in private or in the privacy of your home -- though it is a crime in the State of California "to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication, including a private conversation or telephone call,without the consent of all parties to the conversation."*

To quote billionaire entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban:
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.

...[t]here’s no excuse for his [Donald Sterling's] positions. There’s no excuse for what he said. There’s no excuse for anybody to support racism. There’s no place for it in our league, but there’s a very, very, very slippery slope.

If it’s about racism and we’re ready to kick people out of the league... then what about homophobia? What about somebody who doesn’t like a particular religion. What about somebody who’s anti-semitic? What about a xenophobe?

In this country, people are allowed to be morons.
But... if we're taking something somebody said in their home and we're trying to turn it into something that leads to you being forced to divest property in any way, shape or form, that's not the United States of America. I don't want to be part of that.
Cuban also tweeted that he "100% agreed" with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's decision to ban Donald Sterling for life from associating with the Clippers organization or the NBA and fine him $2.5 million, the maximum fine allowed under the NBA's constitution.

Watching ESPN's live coverage of the Silver/NBA presser and listening to the immediate post-conference media coverage, it seems that many people (i.e., basketball players, coaches, owners, and reporters) were happy with the verdict (though wondered why the NBA hadn't done anything sooner).

Does that mean that the NBA has eradicated racism (and hopefully other forms of hate speech) from basketball? Hardly. But it does send a powerful message, at least to basketball team owners. (Though I worry that the message could be interpreted as, make sure no one records you!)

Now if only the FCC -- or Clear Channel Communications -- would ban Rush Limbaugh from broadcasting and fine him millions of dollars. Ditto all the hate spewers on Fox News. But as any dittohead will tell you, that would be un-American.

UPDATED 4/30/14: If you haven't read Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's great opinion piece re Donald Sterling and racism on Time.com, go read it now.

*Though I doubt V. Stiviano will be arrested.


Dave S. said...

I'm a little confused about Cuban's warnings about a slippery slope (punishing people for words/thoughts) followed by Cuban's endorsement of Sterling's punishment for words/thoughts.

From the little I have read about this, it sounds like this has been a "known issue" for some time but is now surfacing because of the Clippers' increased exposure form being in the playoffs.

Regardless, I guarantee you that Dan Snyder saw this unfold, leaned back in his chair and lit a big fat cigar.

J. said...

@Dave S., yeah, I was a bit confused, too. My interpretation: Cuban endorsed the NBA's not overreaching -- fining and banning Sterling (within the NBA constitution) but not outright forcing him to sell the team. (Technically, Sterling's daughter and/or son-in-law could assume ownership, or so Silver alleged.)

As for Mr. Snyder, I don't see the NFL tomahawk chopping him anytime soon, though some are linking him to Mr. Sterling.

Anonymous said...

I can honestly say there is a double standard in our country. Why is it ok for Nick Cannon to don "white face" and have a "White People Party Music" album? I am as offended by that as by what Sterling said.

Harvard University sponsors an implicit test site which tests one's propensity towards racism/gender bias/ religious bias, etc. It is very enlightening and, if for no other reason to take the test, we learn where our weaknesses lie. Being born and raised in the bible belt, I had more of a religious bias than a racial or gender bias, but that makes me more aware so I can educate myself to NOT be that way.

It may be cool to rant and rave about the Rushes of the world, but there are people in the media who are just as racist in the opposite direction.

J. said...

@Anonymous, Nick Cannon got publicly slammed and booed for donning white face.

Anonymous said...

Nick may have gotten boo'd, but he wasn't banned from entertainment. That burst of outrage lasted less than a week and he was still allowed to perform. That is the difference.