What Freedom of Speech?

In a telephone conversation recorded on April 9, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, engaged in a heated exchange centered on her friendship with a number of current and former professional basketball stars, including Magic Johnson.

In the recorded conversation, obtained by TMZ Sports, Stiviano, who is half black and half Mexican, apologized for the color of her skin, to which Sterling replied, “That isn’t the issue. You’ve missed this issue… The issue is we don’t have to broadcast everything.”

When Stiviano protested that she’s wasn’t broadcasting anything, Sterling asked, “… And why are you taking pictures with minorities…why?”  He went on to explain that “there’s a culture.  People feel certain things.  Hispanics feel certain things towards blacks.  Blacks feel certain things toward other groups.  It’s been that way historically, and it will always be that way.”

To which Stiviano replied, “I’m a mixed girl, and you’re in love with me.  And I’m black and Mexican, whether you like it or not, whether the world accepts it or not.  And you’re asking me to remove something that’s part of me and in my bloodstream because the world thinks different of me and you’re afraid of what they’re going to think (or) see because of your upbringing?  You want me to have hate towards black people?”

Sterling replied, “Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people.  Do you have to? … I don’t want you to have hate.  That’s what people do, they turn things around.  I want you to love them… privately.  In your whole life, everyday, you can be with them… every single day of your life.”

Puzzled, Stiviano asked, “But not in public?”

Sterling replied, “How about your whole life, everyday, you could do whatever you want.  You can sleep with them, you can bring them in, you can do whatever you want.  The little I ask you is not to promote it on that… and not to bring them to my games.”

When Stiviano suggested that Sterling was being negative, he responded, “There is no negativity.  I love everybody.  I’m just saying, in your lousy f_ _ _ ing Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people…”

The conversation set off a firestorm of controversy in the major media, including the normally level-headed and common sense journalists of Fox News.  What no one seemed to notice in the rush to crucify Sterling was that, although his attitude toward blacks might have been a popular view among Democrats in the mid-19th century, his 1st Amendment free speech rights were being totally trashed for expressing the same views in the early 21st century.

Because the conversation was based on race, the NBA was panicked into taking immediate action.  In a New York press conference on Tuesday, April 29, Commissioner Adam Silver yielded to the law of political correctness and dropped the hammer on Sterling.

In a prepared statement, he said, “The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful.  That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage.  Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multi-cultural, and multi-ethnic league.

“I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations and cause former and current players, coaches, fans, and partners of the NBA to question their very association with the league…

Effective immediately, Silver imposed the following punishments on Sterling:

  • He is banned for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA,
  • He is prohibited from attending any NBA games or practices,
  • He is banned from participating in any business or player personnel decisions involving the Clippers,
  • He is barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings or any other league activity,
  • He is required to pay a $2.5 million fine.

In addition, Silver announced that he will urge the NBA Board of Governors to exercise its authority to force a sale of the team, and that the $2.5 million fine, the maximum allowed under the NBA constitution, will be donated to organizations dedicated to anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts that will be jointly selected by the NBA and its Players Association.

Although I share none of Mr. Sterling’s feelings toward any group of people based on the color of their skin, I would defend to the death his right to feel as he does and to express those feelings, either publicly or in private conversation.

Yes, the NBA has a set of rules freely agreed to by all of the team owners.  Under those rules, it is within the power of the NBA to ban him for life from any association with the Clippers or any other NBA team; it is within the power of the NBA to ban him from any business or player personnel decisions of the Clippers; it is within the authority of the NBA to bar Sterling from attending and participating in NBA Board of Governors meetings; and it is within the power of the NBA to fine him $2.5 million for bringing discredit upon the NBA.  However, the NBA does not have the power to prohibit his attendance at NBA games.  Just as the league may not dictate what Sterling thinks or says, neither can they prohibit his freedom to buy a ticket to any sporting event of his choosing.

So far as the $2.5 million is concerned, it remains to be seen which organizations are chosen to receive a portion of those funds.  I would suggest that organizations such as the NAACP, Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, and Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/Push organization would fail to qualify under the parameter dictated by Commissioner Silver.  None of those organizations can claim to be free of racial bias; none can lay claim to racial or political tolerance.

The fact is, I feel just as strongly about liberals and Democrats as Mr. Sterling feels about black people… perhaps moreso.  It is through the profound ignorance of Democrats and other “low information” voters that leftist radicals such as Barack Obama ascend to power, so if I had a teenage daughter and I found that she was dating a Democrat… whether an intellectually  committed socialist or a typical non-thinking, low information zombie… I would not be happy.

The damage that Sterling does by voicing his dislike of black people is inconsequential.  The only real harm it does is to tarnish his personal reputation as a highly successful entrepreneur.  But to pull the Democrat lever in election after election, in support of candidates who provide moral and political support for the likes of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi, does real harm to the country.

What has been largely overlooked in the Donald Sterling “tempest in a teapot” is the fact that he has every right not to like black people.  Unfortunately, amidst all of the sound and fury, no one has thought to ask exactly what it is that he doesn’t like about them.

In the decades since the New Frontier and the Great Society, a great many minorities have been cynically lured beneath the smothering blanket of the welfare state… and not because liberals and Democrats give a damn about the welfare of black people.  Democrats are interested in black people only to the extent that they pull the Democrat lever on Election Day.  And what better way to keep them pulling the Democrat lever than to offer them an endless variety of “freebies” out of the federal treasury.  Unfortunately, in yielding to the irresistible temptation of the welfare state, most blacks have rejected the limitless opportunities that the capitalist system holds out to those who rely on education, hard work, good behavior, and perseverance.

In the process, liberals and Democrats have created a highly unflattering stereotype of black people in the minds of many whites.  Is it that stereotype that motivates Sterling’s attitude toward blacks?  Surely he has an answer to the question, but has anyone thought to ask him?  Certainly, if someone were to ask me what it is that I have against liberals and Democrats, I could speak for hours on the subject… then I’d have to rest for a few minutes before speaking for several more hours.


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