Americans are outraged by old, sick and pathetic Donald Sterling’s racist rantings—and the manipulative con-artist mistress who recorded their conversation.
But consensus ends after the expression of furor. Who among us is without sin to offer the first bid for his franchise?
If the NBA establishes the precedent that it can force the sale of an owner’s property because of one’s illiberal speech, however odious, what now is the new standard of behavior? A sort of descending French Revolutionary justice, predicated on the sound and fury of the mob?
Harry Reid believes the Washington Redskins owner should be targeted next for his insistence on keeping the Redskins logo. Should he too be forced to sell and by whom—his fellow morally superior owners? Should the Orlando Magic owner, Doug DeVoss, be hounded out of the league—as was recently suggested—because he opposes gay marriage? How many owners don’t believe in the idea of man-made global warming? Oppose illegal immigration? Doubt the wisdom of affirmative action? Can we scour their emails, tap their phones, or ask the public for their private indiscretions?
And who will police the police? Oddly, some of the very public officials who weighed in on the Sterling matter themselves have a sorry record of racist speech—and in the public, not illegally taped private, realms. Could any of them in their retirement pitch in to buy the Clippers?
Let us quote them, with following brackets of what might have been the conservative equivalent. Vice President Joe Biden called in to record his outrage. Did not Biden himself once offer a creepy racialist riff—creepy precisely because he claimed that Obama was the “first” (not the second or two-hundredth) so-called clean black presidential candidate? [Imagine Dick Cheney claiming Colin Powell was the first “clean” black qualified to be secretary of state.]
Harry Reid is outraged too and wants more franchise owners held to account for supposedly bigoted views. Reid’s own racist rant was more pathetic than was Biden’s because he waded into the details of “light skinned” and “Negro dialect.” [Imagine Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell praising Allen West because he had no “Negro dialect.”]
How about our Supreme Court justices, who certainly have more power over us than does Donald Sterling? Could they buy the Clippers? Justice Sotomayor has offered clearly racist observations: “ I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” [Imagine Justice Scalia claiming that wise Italian male judges reached better conclusions (by virtue of their race and gender) than minority women justices.]
Or can we turn to Justice Ginsburg, who once voiced pop-eugenics nonsense with the plural code word “populations” in defense of abortion (e.g., “concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of“)? [Imagine Justice Thomas sounding off that abortion was no big deal given that we don’t want too many affluent suburbanites.]
Not to be forgotten is President Obama himself. He had some sober and fitting commentary on the Sterling matter, but in the past had assured the nation that he could “no more disown Rev. Wright” (the proud racist and anti-Semitic former Obama pastor) than his own grandmother, whom he then dubbed a “typical white person” (as in the average white person is a racist). Obama then went on to defame the Cambridge police as racial stereotypers, weighed in on the ongoing Trayvon Martin trial by expressing solidarity on the basis of Martin’s racial affinity, and at one time urged Latinos to “punish our enemies.” [Imagine George W. Bush claiming Nicole Simpson looked like the third daughter he never had (and saying that during the O.J. trial), or calling on white Southerners to punish shared adversaries, or referring to an African-American as a “typical black person.”]
Then there is the issue of the nature of Sterling’s more direct stone throwers. After Sterling’s ostracism, which of them can buy a NBA or equivalent sports franchise? Perhaps Spike Lee, who has appeared in NBA-affiliated commercials?