Stupidity is not a crime

Is Donald Sterling an asshole? Indubitably. Should he be punished for opening his wrinkly old mouth and spewing his asshole thoughts into the universe? Yes, but by the market, not individuals with an agenda. 

Not what you expected from my liberal fingertips? Well, I'm just full of surprises.

Sterling's recorded comments shed a harsh, ugly light on the racism that is still very much alive in this country. They're repugnant and utterly indefensible. They are also free speech.

Here, a quick review is in order. Free speech, as defined by the First Amendment to our Constitution, means that the government shall make no law abridging an individual's right to speak - i.e., in this country, you won't go to prison for expressing an unpopular or unsanctioned opinion. This does not mean there are no consequences - boycotts, firings, etc. - to that speech, and it is not synonymous with the oft-repeated and completely misguided sentiment of "Everyone has a right to his or her opinion." Within very small reason, this is true. You can, for example, fervently believe the world is flat. You have a 'right' to believe that. Said world also has a right, and an obligation, to leave you and your  illogical, ignorant thinking far, far behind as it spins around. As should happen with Sterling.

His ban can be viewed as one of the aforementioned consequences. It could also be a chance for some heavy-handed, politically correct posturing. 

Market forces - the kind that began to stir when Golden State coach Mark Jackson urged fans, including his own team's, to stay away from Clippers games, and when sponsors began pulling their logos and dollar signs - would have dealt with Sterling soon enough. If a team doesn't make money, it will get a new owner. And that's what the NBA was afraid of. The fear of selling less tickets, and of an onslaught of negativity publicity in a hyperfocused, Twitter-fed media market, spurred the league action as much as any actual moral outrage. 

Now, I admire still wet-behind-the-leadership-ears commissioner Adam Silver's decisive action in banning Sterling for life and urging league owners to force him sell his team. As others have rightly noted, had such a thing happened in baseball, Bud Selig would have taken three years and five committees to decide the matter merited more study. Just don't kid yourself about the reasons behind that action. Perhaps Silver, as any decent human would be, was appalled by Sterling asking his mistress to not advertise her association with black people or bring said black people to his team's games (which are, of course, played by lots of talented black people who have helped make him very rich). But Silver also wanted to swiftly curtail any backlash that would hurt his league's bottom line.

And for the record, such a thing has happened in baseball, and in recent memory. Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott was unenlightened about many things, including why fans attending her team's games would need a scoreboard to show them the results of others. She was also fairly unapologetic about airing her racist views. She was suspended twice, but largely tolerated until reports of fraud at the car dealership she owned surfaced and forced her from the game.

Fraud is a crime. Ignorance, sadly, is not.

Punishing speech - however vile - is a slippery, scary slope, and one that this country has chosen throughout history not to descend. It's kind of what makes America, for all its flaws, America. And it's why I think that in a nation that worships that almighty dollar, the free market will correct any abhorrent aberrations - and should be allowed to.

(As an aside, I wholeheartedly support said free market. I do not oppose capitalism. I oppose shameless corporate greed-companies who condescendingly give out Christmas turkeys to the hourly workers my Pop was all his life while pocketing millions in stock options. But I digress). 

I also understand the points of view of some who find the hue and cry about Sterling's remarks borderline offensive. Such large-scale, inescapably public events give people - let's just say, for the sake of argument, rich, white people - a very visible platform to denounce racism and pat themselves on their expensively-sheathed shoulders for doing so. Such events also give them an unspoken pass to ignore less obvious, more insidious instances of racism - say, for the sake of argument, a dress code that may or may not be intended to make the players who make the NBA a shit-ton of money look less like hoodlums to nice suburban folk who would lock their car doors if said players stood, out of uniform, on a street corner - that go on, unchecked and unlamented, every day.

But public opinion is a powerful thing, and it's already rolling. Its momentum may well result in Sterling selling the Clippers - and making more millions, wah - and then being freer to consort with women less than half his age to whom he is not married. That's justice, right?

Speaking of, you wouldn't know it, but around 200 Nigerian girls are still missing after being kidnapped from school last month. They were taken by people who fear knowledge and truth, and their return (and safety) is being hampered by politics and lies. But hey, what are the Kardashians up to? 

#BringBackOurGirls