Donald Sterling and the Aims of Liberalism

I have been pretty silent on the Donald Sterling matter; however, I was prompted to respond by friends in my fantasy football league. We often discuss a number of social issues on our private discussion board. I have gained a great deal of insight from them — my friends. Here is pretty much what I stated to them: Sterling is clearly in the wrong here; however, I am going to defend him for a bit. Sure, he has a history of this stuff, but he was making a statement in what he believed was a private conversation; he has the right to be a racist. If being a bad person has value to him — so be it. When Kobe was heard calling a NBA official the “F” word (derogatory term about homosexuals), he got a suspension and fine. Kobe’s actions were worst because he stated it in an open forum. His expectation of privacy was minimum.

Keep in mind that it is Sterling’s team.

There are layers of societal issues here; racism is ubiquitous. Taking his property from him is anti-capitalism and only promotes unhealthy attitudes towards the origin of the matter. American liberalism is an ideological construct that encapsulates all of us, self-proclaimed liberals or conservatives. Americans believe in freedom of speech and thought; we do not believe one should have the right to act on such thought if it violates one’s freedoms. The housing matter involving Sterling is clear action regarding his beliefs; hence housing discrimination is not an American value. Claiming there are too many minorities in his arena is his right. But, to say and act upon the notion of there being too many black people at his game is an act that violates the norms of Constitutional liberalism.

Here is where capitalism works well. Rosa Parks and black folks said in 1955 that they would no longer ride the Montgomery city transit system if they had to sit in the back of a bus. Seeing that many white folks owned cars, this crippled this market to a point in which they had to allow blacks greater freedoms. The same held true in cities like Nashville and Birmingham regarding lunch counters.

Sterling wants to make money. He would not prohibit blacks from making him money. I do believe the league has the right to protect its brand. But banning him in the way in which they did is not the solution.

Below are a great points made by my friend Bryan McDermott on why my above conclusion is wrong:

1) Clubs can choose their members.
2) The sum of the parts is greater than the whole. If one part is weak it cheapens the product.
3) What’s to stop fans in Chicago from boycotting the Clippers when they come to town? That hurts innocent stakeholders.
4) Corporate money doesn’t want to be involved with a league that countenances racism. That hurts stakeholders.

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