Anybody else a bit uneasy to see Sterling get the shaft for comments he apparently made in private to a person he considered a confidante? The right to privacy is the right to be left alone. It’s source is the idea that each individual has a basic right of autonomy. These are abstractions–somewhat laughable abstractions these days. But still–the owners of professional sports franchises who have been banned in the past committed crimes (Eddie D, e.g.) or made very public racist pronouncements (Al Campanis, e.g.–not an owner, but close).
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be happy to see Sterling slither out of sight. He bought into the NBA when it was (relatively) cheap and his franchise until recently was the dregs. He can sell now, make a new fortune, and vanish. Good riddance. Since when, however, can anyone punish us for having opinions and discussing them in private? Maybe the NSA can get you if your opinion involves a terrorist plot. But general garden-variety small-minded American racism? Half the white people I’ve known in my life share Sterling’s bent.
So how can the NBA justify what it’s doing? PR. Rise up righteously against racism and hope the Clippers scandal doesn’t ruin the revenue stream from this year’s playoffs. On the other hand, I admit that it’s something of a privilege to be a NBA owner. So maybe it’s ok to tell the privileged few to toe a very strict line on race, even in the privacy of their own homes. Maybe Sterling is not only getting what he deserves, but is getting it fairly. I’m not yet sure.