Tag Archive | "NBA"

The Continuing Saga of Donald Sterling

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The NBA in its haste to take The Clippers from Donald Sterling may have bitten off more than they can chew.


We have already discussed the potential implications the Donald Sterling situation may have on regular citizens.  Taking one’s property for what should be protected speech sets a precedent that could have very damaging consequences for anyone who says something deemed offensive in the future.  What should to be discussed now are the problems the National Basketball Association is bringing on itself in their attempts to take Sterling’s team as fast as it can.


The NBA, like all businesses in this day and age of rapid media response to perceived public relations issues, makes hasty decisions to ease public tensions, and that is no doubt the case with Sterling.  Something of this magnitude and importance, however, simply cannot be rushed because of the many moving parts.


As I proposed in an earlier article, the NBA should have just let the free market handle Donald Sterling.  If people were that offended by what Donald Sterling said, they would stop going to Clipper games and, in the long run, would compel Sterling to sell his team.  The prospects of players boycotting key playoff games put the league in a bind, and they made the judgment to take the team from Sterling.


What people are not talking enough about is that the recording of Donald Sterling’s comments was procured illegally.  This is one of the many moving parts that must be settled before seizing Sterling’s property.  It is difficult to accept, because Sterling admits it’s his voice on the recording.  But, if we only have the recording because of an illegal act, that is the proverbial “fruit from the poisonous tree.”  If a lawyer goes to authorities saying his client admitted to killing someone, regardless of how difficult it may be to deal with, that evidence is not legal.


There is also the community property situation surrounding the team because of the marital situation between Donald and his estranged wife Shelly.  Shelly Sterling has agreed to sell the team as to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claiming that Donald was not mentally capable of making business decisions – thus, allowing her to sell the team under the guise of family trust.  I’m not a lawyer, but any competent person can see the numerous issues with that situation.


If the sale to Ballmer does not hold up in court, then the other owners will likely have to vote on whether or not to take the franchise from Donald Sterling.  If the vote is made public as some are requesting, what if one or two, or even 10 or so (which would be enough no votes for Sterling to keep the team) vote “No?”  Right now, the NBA is dealing with a public relations disaster of one owner deemed a racist.  Do they really want to compound the problem?


Donald Sterling also claims he knows of discriminatory practices by others in the league including current Commissioner David Silver.  Donald Sterling’s reputation speaks for itself.  While he may not be mentally incapacitated, he certainly has a few screws loose upstairs, so anything he says has to be taken with a grain of salt.  If there is any truth to what Sterling is saying about past league transgressions, however, they will certainly come to light in what is shaping up to be an ugly court battle between both sides.


While the league did rush to judgment, they did so because of the public relations value in the instant gratification society in which we now live.  We are also, frequently to our detriment, a highly litigious society, and the NBA is trying to navigate its way through that aspect as well.  The public relations aspect forced the NBA to move swiftly on Donald Sterling.  However, litigation will not move so swiftly and will likely be a much more thorough examination of all sides of this contentious issue.  Yet, I can’t help but think that this whole situation is as messy as a one-year-olds bib.



1984 in 2014: The Case of Donald Sterling

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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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