Here is what I dislike about the whole Donald Sterling/Los Angeles Clippers/NBA story: Everything.
First you have Sterling, who owns the Clippers basketball team, demonstrating that he prefers black people as his subordinates on the court rather than his guests in the stadium. He clearly has a racial superiority issue that leaves me to wonder about his chosen profession.
But just as troubling as Sterlings obvious bigotry is the overreaction of NBA officials to his declared bias. They have made him the owner of the Clippers in name only. Im not sure how the NBA can legally prevent a team owner from running his business, but some document granting it such authority must exist.
This in no way is to ignore the danger that racism continues to pose today. Even privately expressed bigotry has the potential to confirm similar bias in other people, who will act on it as they please. Sterling may not have engaged in a hate crime against a black individual, but someone else who takes comfort in his views may do so.
I wont pretend to grasp the enormity of how racism against black people impacts its victims. While I hopefully can sympathize with their struggle for justice and equality, Ill never know the depth of pain caused by this hatred.
The recording of Sterling making racist comments obviously is yet another dagger in the heart of a people historically besieged by bigotry. This sorry episode begs the question, when will it all end?
But tolerating odious views is supposed to be the hallmark of American liberty. We are free to express ourselves as we wish and engage in activities that reflect our beliefs, however they may differ from those held by others.
For the NBA to effectively strip ownership from an individual because of privately expressed thoughts is outrageous. Its painfully clear that this is a response to a public relations nightmare. And being the corporate creatures they are, the NBA and Los Angeles Clippers felt compelled to distance themselves as far away from Sterling as possible.
But public relations concerns should not trump individual liberties. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver should have publicly condemned Sterlings words in the strongest possible terms and left it at that. Sterling did not make his comments during a public event, direct them to any of his players or employees, or promote them on social media.
In fact, his comments were so private and obscure that NBA officials had to use audio experts to verify that the voice on the recording was Sterlings. How does something done so secretly rise to the level of a lifetime banishment from the NBA?
A similar fate befell Brendan Eich, who was forced to resign as chief executive officer of Mozilla Corp. last month after it was disclosed he had previously donated $1,000 to an initiative to thwart gay marriage in California. He had been named CEO of Mozilla two weeks prior.
The offense that racial minorities and gay people feel from the actions taken by Sterling and Eich is of no small consequence. Bigots should be opposed at every turn. To ignore their poison is to allow it to permeate our society further, leaving it free to infect others down the road.
But the activists who called for such drastic measures against Sterling and Eich may be doing more harm to our nation than good. They are undermining the foundation upon which a free society has been built.
The same constitutional principles that enable us to oppose bigotry in any form protect the bigoted views we find so objectionable. People who love our country, particularly those who fought and died to keep it free, must accept the repulsive sight of people burning U.S. flags. Free expression cannot be protected if the safeguards uphold only some viewpoints.
One of my professors from graduate school understood this principle completely. As a civil libertarian, he actively championed the right of American Nazis from Illinois to hold a march in the late 1970s in Skokie, a Chicago suburb with a sizable Jewish population. But as a fierce critic of bigotry as well as someone of Jewish ancestry, he joined the numerous protesters urging the Nazis to spew their filth somewhere else.
Racist and homophobic views are unacceptable, no question. But coercing others to derail the livelihoods of individuals due to their personally held beliefs endangers the liberties we all cherish.
Once the foundation of civil liberties is damaged, the ones who become victimized as a result may well be members of minority groups whose rights this principle protects.
After all, they are most vulnerable to discrimination by majoritarian sentiment. Why would they wish to potentially plant the seeds of their own injury?
Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.