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Opinion: NBA-ban an Overreaction?

    By Jermone Depondicchello. May 8, 2014 - 12:50 pm

Donald-Sterling-Girlfriend

Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has now officially been banned from the NBA.

A now infamous audio recording was leaked a couple of weeks back, where Sterling tells his mistress, V. Stiviano, that he did not want her to associate with African Americans and more specifically, not bring them to his basketball games. The tape lead to NBA commissioner Adam Silver making a decision to ban Sterling from the NBA for life. Silver also imposed a 2.5 million dollar fine on Sterling.

Sterling’s racist comments were reprehensible, hateful, and downright inappropriate, but did the punishment fit the crime? And was a crime even committed?

Sterling made racist comments in what he believed to be a private conversation, and now that conversation is known to the entire world. He’s banned from going to any NBA games or event again, and will most likely lose ownership of his team. In addition to this, he will be probably be forced to live with the negative stigma created by the incident for the rest of his life.

But how much should what you do or say in your private life affect your professional life? As much as I hate the comments that Sterling made, he is entitled to the same freedom of speech as the rest of us.

But how much should what you do or say in your private life affect your professional life? As much as I hate the comments that Sterling made, he is entitled to the same freedom of speech as the rest of us. We need to take into account the context of how this whole situation played out. Sterling thought he was having a private conversation with his mistress. Now that conversation has leaked, it cost him more that he could have imagined.

This is not the first time Sterling’s character has come into question however, which makes the repercussions for his actions now seem strange.

In 2009, Elgin Baylor, who was executive vice president and general manager of the Clippers from 1996 to 2008 filed a lawsuit against Sterling. Baylor claimed he was wrongfully terminated and that Sterling underpaid him and treated him “as a token because of his race.”

According to Baylor, who is African-American, “[Sterling] wanted the Clippers team to be composed of poor black boys from the south and a white head coach.”

In addition to this, the United States Justice Department filed a lawsuit in 2006 accusing Sterling, who owns a California rental company, of refusing to rent apartments to African-Americans, refusing to allow non-Koreans in Los Angeles’ Koreatown and rejecting families with children.

The case was eventually settled in 2009, with Sterling having to pay $3 million but he continues to deny that he did anything wrong.

Sterling has clearly been the target of both racist – and criminal – allegation over the years, so why is that only now, after a private conversation was leaked, the NBA decides to take action against him?

Is it the fact that unlike previous escapades, Sterling’s recent comments brought too much negative attention to the NBA during one of their most exciting and historic playoffs?

Let me be clear, I’m not trying to defend the words of Donald Sterling, because it’s obvious that Sterling isn’t exactly a good role model. But at what point do we start to consider our own rights to privacy? Everyone has done or said something that they’d rather not have people be aware of, things that don’t represent the entirety of their person.

The whole Sterling incident has shown people the power of words. These days, no matter where comments are made we all need to watch what we say, because something that we thought was said in private could come back to haunt us.

Photo: AP

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