April 30, 2014

SLATE: Donald Sterling Is a Vile Racist: But even a horrible human being doesn’t deserve to have his property stripped away. “A private citizen whose private thoughts were audio-taped (perhaps illegally) has been told he can no longer own his private property because of the thoughts that were revealed on that tape. These thoughts were loathsome to be sure, but didn’t advocate anything illegal and didn’t call for any violent or even literally hurtful actions.” Sorry, that’s pre-Obama Era thinking. Now, anyone who offends the collective is fair game.

Though given that, at this point, Sterling doesn’t have much to lose, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him strike back. The ex-Mistress is an obvious target for a lawsuit, since her recording was illegal in California, I believe. And if, as I saw some talking head saying on CNN this morning, the NBA’s charter doesn’t specifically address this kind of thing, he might be able to sue them for civil rights conspiracy: Combining to punish him for free expression. The damages might be large, and the litigation would be extensive and involve a lot of discovery, and a lot of closely held NBA financial information would probably become public.

I’d do it, if I were him, but I was always a Samson-in-the-temple kind of guy. And if I were an 81-year-old billionaire who’d been savaged in public for weeks, I’d probably be more inclined to do so.

UPDATE: This analysis from Sports Illustrated misses the civil rights conspiracy angle, but is otherwise pretty sound. Note this:

Sterling suing may lead to pretrial discovery, which could be designed in part to embarrass other owners and NBA officials of any bigoted remarks or beliefs on their part. Keep in mind, if Sterling is ousted because of racism, he would likely demand that evidence showing that other owners and officials are also racist be shared. He would use such information to portray his penalty as unwarranted and contradicted by the conduct of those who ousted him. Sterling might request emails and other records from owners and officials that depict them in a negative light. Sterling has owned the Clippers for 33 years, which suggests that he has had many interactions — including private conversations with league officials and owners. If there are other owners who are racist or bigoted, it stands to reason Sterling knows who they are.

There’s a gold mine out there. And they’ll have to be worried that there are tapes, since apparently the NBA is one big Watergate. “The NBA is starting to resemble the Watergate era now that it is known that current Celtics assistant coach Dan Erman was fired from the Golden State Warriors for taping private conversations by coaches and players. The Warriors termination of Erman comes on the heels of Clippers owner Donald Sterling being fired for having his private conversation recorded, which unveiled his racial bigotry.”