So Donald Sterling, billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team in the National Basketball Association, made some bigoted, despicable, racist comments to his girlfriend/mistress in a private conversation in his home.
He had every right to make those comments, reprehensible as they are, and did not not break any laws by making them.
Sterling has been eviscerated publicly for making the comments and the NBA has seen fit to impose extraordinary punishment on him for them, punishment including a 2.5 million dollar fine, a lifetime prohibition of any contact or involvement with the Clippers or the NBA and the forced sale of the team.
All for doing something that was perfectly within the law, that he had every right to do, that was not criminal and has never been criminal in the United States.
All for exercising his rights to free speech and freedom of expression, rights which every American has and which American has had since the country was founded, rights which are guaranteed by the United States Constitution.
That really is the core of the issue in the Sterling case.
Can a person be punished for doing something that he, or she, has every legal and Constitutional right to do?
Can a person be punished for exercising their rights of free speech and freedom of expression, even though by exercising them they broke no laws or committed no criminal acts?
If Sterling’s punishment stands the answer would have to be a profound yes to both questions.
If Sterling’s punishment stands it would mean the death of free speech and freedom of expression in the United States.
Yes, Sterling’s views and comments are racist, vile, offensive, disgusting and so on.
Under the Constitution of the United States and the law of the land he has every right to hold them and every right to express them.
Take away those rights and you take away everything America stands for and has always stood for…take away those rights and you fundamentally change the nature, character and essence of the country…take away those rights and Americans can no longer call themselves a free people living in a free nation…take away those rights and the thought police and forces of political correctness will have won…take away those rights and anyone can be silenced or shut up for saying something that someone else doesn’t like, even if it was said in the privacy of their own home, even if what was said was innocuous or jocular…you, me, anyone…take away those rights informally and they will soon be taken away formally.
As of this writing there are rumors that Sterling may go to court and seek redress.
Personally, I hope he does and I hope he wins, because of the larger issue involved.
Three more quick thoughts.
People that live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, as the saying goes. There isn’t one single person who has castigated Sterling that hasn’t made comments in the privacy of their own home which someone else couldn’t construe as racist. In fact, the record will show that many of those who have castigated Sterling are at least as racist as he is, if not more so.
Sterling’s girlfriend/mistress secretly taped their conversation and then released it to the public through social media without his knowledge or consent…now those are crimes.
“I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.”…words all Americans should heed.