1984 in 2014: The Case of Donald Sterling

Posted on 30 April 2014


NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has now banned Donald Sterling for life from the NBA and is now trying to force Donald Sterling to sell his team following his racist comments.  Racism should not be condoned but we need to take a step back and consider where we are heading in society when a private conversation can result in a loss of property.


Tensions are high, of course, and it’s easy to say take the team from Donald Sterling.  Like most people in this public relations day and age, they either go with the flow because they are afraid to say what’s right or point the finger when it’s easy to do so, since they are not the one in the crosshairs.


If Donald Sterling challenges this ruling in court, and given his track record he most likely will, any decision made will set a precedent for not just professional basketball, but anything for that matter.  If Adam Silver’s decision holds up in court, then that means anyone’s property can be taken from them for something they say in private.


The owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, made the statement about the slippery slope that comes when one’s property is taken away on the basis of a private conversation.  This shouldn’t be surprising, because Mark Cuban is not only a very smart man but he is more than willing to go his own way and say what needs to be said.


Adam Silver was in a tough spot here.  The Clippers and Warriors were ready to boycott Game Five of their series had Donald Sterling not been banned.  Adam Silver could not have a playoff game cancelled under such circumstances.  He had to make the decision he did, but that doesn’t make it right.


ESPN reports today that it is expected the owners vote to remove Sterling will be 29 to zero.  Do people understand what is about to happen?  Donald Sterling is going to have his property that is worth at least a half a billion dollars taken from him.  If the decision holds up in court, that will mean there is potential that any time someone says something in private that is offensive, their property can be taken from them.  If that is the law of the land, we may have fulfilled the dystopian vision of the thought police envisioned by George Orwell in his classic novel “1984.”


We live in a free market system and a country where we have Constitutional protections for speech.  In such a society, the market can penalize those whose statements and attitudes, public or made public, are in contrast to those of society as a whole.  In Donald Sterling’s case, this has already begun.  Sponsors have dropped their deals with the Clippers.  Fans, if they choose, can stop attending Clippers’ games.  Were the team to become progressively less profitable, then Donald Sterling would likely make the business decision to cut his losses and sell the team.


Society and the people who comprise it often act rashly.  Sometimes, we need to take pause and think about the repercussions of our actions.  There are many more effective ways within the free market to get Donald Sterling out of the league that do not require crossing a dangerous Rubicon.


Each person saying Donald Sterling should lose the team should remember that he himself lives in a proverbial glass house in today’s world of decreasing privacy.  The next time you say something in private that could be viewed as offensive, are your prepared to be compelled to lose or sell your own property – perhaps, for below its market value?  If you give the thought police an inch, they will likely take a mile.


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One Response to “1984 in 2014: The Case of Donald Sterling”

  1. Jack S. Fogbound says:

    Kudos to the author for very well written and informative article. America is at the crossroad of existence, as Ronald Reagan predicted.
    Our precious freedom which distinguishes America from all the countries on this plane,is once again being challenged in the courts of law as to where the supreme authority lies. Is it the Constitution? which is the foundation of our country or the whims of judges to make the final decision. The original Constitution set tenets to protect citizens from losing their rights and these tenets must be applied or our precious freedom will be lost in the passages of time.

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