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By:William Murchison | April 29, 2014

Down with a resounding bang comes the wrath of that great moral institution, the National Basketball Association, upon the noggin of Donald Sterling. Boo! Hiss! Get the hook! And once you’ve paid your $2.5 million fine, Sterling, for the offense of lax language during a private conversation, why don’t you just die? That would be the tone and tempo of Sterling coverage in the media over the past few days. The New York Times took time out from lamenting the conservative agenda, such as it is, to ask, editorially, “Why Did the N.B.A. Long Tolerate Sterling?” Inevitably, the country’s No. 1 basketball fan, Barack Obama, weighed in from Malaysia, as to the continuing effects of race and slavery.

Yessir, yessir, we stomped that sucker Sterling all right: big fine, lifetime ban from the N.B.A., the works. All we have to do now is clean up the resultant damage to the right of free speech – a right unavailable, it would seem, even in private conversations,  to adherents of particular viewpoints.

The viewpoint in question – Sterling’s, which can be summarized as a low opinion of  blacks  – is certainly antique and philosophically gawky, especially in one whose basketball team comprises mostly black players.

Does that mean it’s illegal for Sterling to like what he likes and dislike what he doesn’t like? Especially if he’s not talking for public consumption?  “What’s it to you, buddy?”, is the question that needs throwing in the faces of the Sterling lynch mob. Do the private opinions of a private citizen hurt anybody besides, in the present case, himself? What’s the need for  public outrage and an auto da fe? Where does this get anybody? How does it purify the Soul of America? But for a recording he didn’t know was being made, we wouldn’t have any idea what Sterling said. Would we be the worse off for our ignorance?

The marketplace of ideas – a venue supposedly, but actually shakily, protected by the First Amendment — is designed for the sorting out of ideas and notions, sensible as well as crackpot. You could say that happened in the Sterling case, but it didn’t really: not with the semi-official cry for the man’s head on a platter. You don’t have to execute the people with bad ideas; you argue them down.

“And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?”

John Milton speaking. Reckon the N.B.A. and the Times ever heard of the dude? 



Mark S.
4/29/2014 09:00 PM

  From an outsider's perspective, it's about race. From the point of view of the principal parties, it's about money and possession (as usual). Why would Mr. Sterling's checkered past come out and be used NOW, especially when he had more substantial allegations to contend with years back ? Why would the NBA's "investigation" only go on for ONE DAY ? And why is no one considering the fact that Mr. Sterling's conversations were apparently recorded (in violation of California provincial law) for quite some time to produce the "100 hours" of supposed racial vitriol ? "Racism" and publicity about same are just tools to be used. I'll wager large money that the real issue to the NBA and the ownership interests thereof is making sure that the LA Clippers are taken out of Mr. Sterling's hands and sold to the "right" people.

Paul Harris
5/1/2014 10:39 PM

  Obviously the country is in the grip leftists who believe people should be punished for certain opinions. Just as obviously this was a hit-job on the part of someone out for revenge, personal gain, or both. However, all this has happened before. Marge Schott lost her baseball team for saying that Hitler was 'not so bad at first' and Paula Deen lost her cooking show for having used the 'N' word years ago. John Rocker lost his job as a baseball player for mouthing similarly indelicate condemnations of typical riders on the NY subway. But in none of these cases did the government demand any sort of punishment. Perhaps a good lawyer could find some legal basis for making a company that tolerated such speech regret it. But as it stands, in each case we have private entities acting freely. If the CEO of Wells Fargo were found to be a member of a white supremacist group or a vocal admirer of Adolf Hitler, we would expect him to be canned. He is a visible symbol of the company and his private life cannot be put entirely off limits to corporate scrutiny. Given the current political environment and the NBA's heavily black 'work-force' it would have shown very poor business judgment not to come down hard on Mr. Sterling. It would be better to focus on the irony: Mr. Sterling is a big Democrat and past winner of an award from the NAACP for his philanthropy. He was about to receive a second award when the story broke. Once again we are reminded of the blend of hypocrisy and Orwellian double-think that characterizes acceptable public opinion on race, religion, and culture.

Sean Scallon
5/2/2014 03:11 AM

  Let's put the case of Mr. Tokowitz (which is his real name not his WASP-wanna be name) in a context Mr, Murchinson might understand better. Let's there's a country club which has a rather uncouth member that while amusing and charming in his own way, also badmouths other members behind their backs, engages in disreputable behavior in his business, brings women who he is clearly not married and much younger than he is to club functions and rents out the club to throw parties which contained scantily clad women of his employment. Now, would the members of this club have not the right to expel this member for behavior unbecoming the standards of the club? Hmm? I think if that's true in the case of a country club, why not in the club of owners of franchises in the National Basketball Association? Congress may not abridge free speech but it also does not protect either in matters of private association.


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