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?
But Mr. Lee has made it clear that the very sight of interracial couples offends him. So do white moms in strollers in formerly black neighborhoods (“When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers…”). Lee not long ago tweeted the wrong address of George Zimmerman’s parents, in a failed crude effort to incite mob violence against his family—which resulted in threats to a completely different Zimmerman family and a lawsuit. After visiting South Africa, Lee thundered, “I seriously wanted to pick up a gun and shoot whites. The only way to resolve matters is by bloodshed.” Should Lee be blacklisted from NBA games and his NBA commercial work dropped? Is publicly advocating racial violence worse than privately expressing racist ideas?
Charles Barkley (of the NBA: “we are a black league”) has also weighed in. Could Mr. Barkley join an effort to buy the Clippers? Unlike Sterling, his racist outbursts were a bit more direct (“That’s why I hate white people”) and were not private. Was that a joke or just letting off steam?
Perhaps Shaquille O’Neal could head a consortium to purchase the Clippers? But O’Neal just posted a tasteless video of himself mocking someone suffering from a disfiguring illness. But that was not new, given that not too long ago he parodied NBA star Yao Ming’s Chinese ancestry.
There is talk that perhaps boxer Floyd Mayweather might be interested in the Clippers. Is he less racist than Donald Sterling? Compare his record. Of his Filipino opponent Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather announced that he would have him “make some sushi rolls and cook some rice.” And he added: “We’re going to cook him with some cats and dogs.” Of NBA guard Jeremy Lin, Mayweather said, “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.”
Rapper P. Diddy is likewise interested. Perhaps his bid might include the instagram he sent of white women bowing down in obeisance to a black queen–small stuff compared to his past public racist rants.
How about a comedy or hip-hop team buying the NBA franchise, one made up of Chris Rock (“Happy white peoples’ independence day”), Jamie Foxx (“I kill all the white people in the movie. How great is that?”), and Jay-Z (wearing his showy racist Five Percent Nation medallion)?
Of course, Oprah is outraged at Sterling and said to be interested in joining an effort to acquire the team. But if private conversations are also now a proper NBA benchmark of racial sensitivity, Ms. Winfrey’s own mother-in-law just alleged that Oprah yelled out when she arrived at the Winfrey home: “Negroes in the house. Negroes in the house.” Is such unsubstantiated hearsay more or less admissible than illegally taped private phone calls?
Then there is the issue of the NAACP. Some who sympathized with cattle rancher Cliven Bundy when swarms of federal SWAT teams descended on him to impound his herd over a dispute about grazing fees and an endangered tortoise were advised that they should have known in advance that such an anti-government reprobate would later make racially insensitive remarks.
But what then is the post facto excuse of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP? It can be blamed not for lack of foresight, but rather for amnesia. Unlike Mr. Bundy, Donald Sterling had a long history not just of racist speech, but also of racially intolerant behavior—and yet was slated to receive—for a second time—a lifetime achievement award from the Los Angeles chapter of NAACP.
Why? Perhaps ask the now former president of that NAACP chapter why it is awarding Al Sharpton its first “Person of the Year” award. Sharpton,of course, is the race-baiting former FBI informant, demagogic instigator of riot and mayhem, tax delinquent, on-the-record anti-Semite and homophobe (“Greek homos”), and frequent White House guest (what does one have to do not to be invited to the White House?). At least the NAACP does not use a racial standard to honor bigots.
Could Sharpton buy an NBA franchise?
Then there is the issue of the players. Is private racist speech worse than public racist and homophobic remarks from superstars like Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, and a host of others? How about felonious behavior? Are there NBA players now in the game who have been convicted of crimes? Are former NBA players who are felons, murderers, thieves, or rapists banned for life from attending NBA games?
It would have been far wiser to shun Mr. Sterling and even fine him for racial insensitivity, and then let fans, players, and the general public boycott his franchise and the free market adjudicate the team’s fate, until Mr. Sterling learns that there are consequences to his past behavior and present speech.
But the present hysteria has now raised far more issues of the sort Attorney General Eric Holder once damned the American people as “cowards” for not raising. A billionaire and litigious, the 81-year-old Sterling will probably not go quietly into the night. We were told his racism offered us a teachable moment—but it has now offered unending teachable hours.