There’s a good editorial in the Boston Globe today about LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling; it expresses some ideas that we should be hearing from a lot more sources. Among those I’ve seen, former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came closest to echoing my thoughts when he wrote on Monday:
“Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizens’ privacy in such an un-American way?”
Sterling’s racist remarks were offensive and would and should not be acceptable in public. But the remarks were made in a private conversation. And they were recorded surreptitiously and illegally — and then leaked to the media. Yet we’ve heard virtually no condemnation of the girlfriend who made the recording, nor of her releasing it as an act of vengeance against Sterling. She committed a crime; he said some nasty things in private. She’s walking away; he’s received a lifetime ban from the NBA and will likely be forced to sell his team. What’s wrong with this picture?
Once again we are seeing a massive outpouring of public outrage and condemnation, totally disproportionate to the offense. A figurative mob mentality. Or a bunch of guilty consciences. Or an effort to appear more politically correct than the next guy. Or all of these. Not to mention throwing in past offenses which have no direct bearing on Sterling’s NBA activities. It’s as though there’s a new McCarthyism sweeping the country, only now it’s racism instead of communism.
I’m not defending Sterling. He sounds like a truly unpleasant person. But what he said was said in private. Had his words not been publicized to and by the media, nothing about his relationship with the Clippers would have changed. Has he behaved poorly with them? Has he engaged in discriminatory or racist behavior toward them? If not, why should something he said in a private conversation cost him his NBA relationship?
I harbor some private thoughts and beliefs that are not politically correct, and you probably do, too. We all do. We have thoughts and opinions that are not very nice, that wouldn’t be acceptable to a lot of people. But we don’t act on them. We keep them to ourselves, or perhaps confide only in close friends or family members who share similar beliefs. There are no laws against thoughts and opinions, only against actions and behavior. We don’t have thought police in this country. Yet.