Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

May 4, 2014

Question Time: Donald Sterling’s punishment

Do you think his ban, fine was fair?

[Editor’s note: To participate in future queries, keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook accounts.]

On April 25, TMZ Sports released a surreptitiously-obtained recording of a September 2013 conversation in which Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling made several racist comments against black people. After a public and private outcry, National Basketball Association commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life and imposed a $2.5 million fine, the most allowed by the league’s constitution. Silver also stated he would move to force Sterling to sell the team. So, we wanted to know: “Was the punishment Silver levied against Sterling fair? Why or why not?”

Your answers

“It was a private conversation that she recorded and put out there for everyone to hear. So you people would allow your workplace to fire or fine you for things you say in private?” — Jamie Michael

“He signed a contract with the NBA when he became owner. Players aren’t going to want to play for the guy. This has been a long time coming. … Basically they don’t want one closed minded idiot to ruin the league. Besides, shouldn’t we as a society be striving to move past things like this?” — Brandon King

“It sets a precedent that if you say something, illegal or not, in the privacy of your own home you can be punished...even if the conversation was illegally recorded. I don’t agree with his views but it’s apparent that people didn’t care about his views before this.” — Jesse Cox

“If he violated his contract then I guess they have the power to punish him within the boundaries of said contract.” — Chap Taylor

Our answers

“Very fair. Ask the thousands that he has discriminated against over the years if the punishment is just.” — Dan Trout

“The commissioner said in his press conference that the lifetime ban was for just that one taped conversation, but I think that the NBA finally felt it had to act because not only was the tape now in the pubic eye, but people were starting to discuss Sterling’s past history of discrimination with respect to housing (which is a far bigger issue). I’ve long wondered how with his history black and Latin players didn’t protest his being in the league at all. If I knew about him, and I’m not a very active NBA fan, surely players, coaches and agents should have known. Can’t imagine any minority going to play for him with a clean conscience. So considering the combined weight of both his current embarrassment and also his history of discriminatory policies, it was not only fair, it was far too long in coming. The league’s internal arrangement has given the commissioner the power to do this, so the question of whether the league has the power to ban him is already settled. It does.” — Pedro Velazco

“Sterling is getting what he deserves. If you look back at his legal history, he has been sued more than once for his race-related business dealings in both his role as a professional sports team owner and property owner. The things he said in the recordings that brought about the decision in which the NBA banned him for life and fined him $2.5 million are a major black eye for the league, and would’ve had a catastrophic financial impact on all involved had they not acted as swiftly as they did. Sterling may have legal legs to stand on in court in terms of his civil liberties being violated. The conversation he was having, which was ultimately made public unbeknownst to him, was in a private setting not meant for public consumption. As abhorrent as they were, the remarks were not of a physically-threatening nature. He has the right to say what he wants without repercussions from the government. However, the NBA is a private business entity that has chosen to no longer let Sterling serve as a representative of the business’ views. I really think he would have a hard time winning any kind of litigation against the NBA for that very reason. Sterling is a lawyer by trade, and has a history of taking cases to court in the past. And, the fact that he hasn’t come out and said anything 48 hours after his ban was announced makes me feel like he’s going to pursue whatever legal avenues he has at his disposal. If he was smart and had his bifocals on to read the writing on the wall, no one in the NBA wants him around, and the best thing to do for himself and the future generations of his family would be to transfer ownership to someone within his family or sell the team and call it a career.” — Josh Sigler

“There’s a couple issues at play here, so let’s be careful to parse them: First, from everything I can tell, Sterling has been known to be racist scum for quite some time. So, it’s not as if he had an unblemished reputation until this scandal befell him. The punishment really seems to reflect a final push over the edge due to the fact no one could deny his awfulness any longer. (Although, I am still baffled as to how the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was in a position to rescind a second Lifetime Achievement Award for Sterling this month, let alone offer him a first.) Second, while I find Sterling’s worldview to be abhorrent, I can’t really get behind the secret recording of anybody. I find this invasion of privacy problematic. But, then again, now that we’ve all heard it, you can’t really put the toothpaste in the tube on that one. Everyone knows now and there’s no unknowing it. Third, I totally understand the monetary part of the fine (and wish it could be more as it’s the only way to get a billionaire’s attention), and I totally get the forcing of him to sell the team, but the ban for life? The dude is 80 years old! How long is the ban even going to be applicable? How much life do they think he last left to be banned for? Ultimately, though, it’s a sticky situation and I think Silver did about as well with it as could be expected. Sadly, his punishment can’t involve forcing him into bankruptcy and compelling him to live in one of his own apartment buildings, but we don’t live in a just and perfect world.” — Rob Burgess

Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.

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