Why Silver's Decision Represents a Slippery Slope

(Before diving into the subject, just a bit of background- in case you're interested. Understandably, you're probably not...I've been a member of this blog for almost 6 years, and come almost every day the Blazers play. I love reading the Gameday threads the day after we win a big game, and always appreciate the maturity and enthusiasm that the fans and the contributors have for the Blazers. Unlike most of you probably, I've only been a fan since Scottie Pippen joined the team- but I am not too ashamed to say that the last time I cried during a sporting event of any kind was when the Lakers beat Portland in Game 7 of the Playoffs oh so long ago. But enough about that which has nothing to do with the subject matter which I wanted to address.)

As I was skimming through the comments on this website regarding Silver's decision, I was a bit surprised by not just how many people thought it was a great decision and demonstration of his new leadership, but also but what wasn't found: dissent. Not in a, "oh-this-is-terrible" kind of way, but I didn't see even a single person express caution at the implications of this decision. Thus: a rare fanpost from myself. For I wanted to address this situation, and see what you guys think. Most of you probably won't agree with what I have to say, but that's cool, no hard feelings. [A quick edit: Douglast brought up a good point from Espn, saying, "What if a player gets caught making similar quotes? Don’t you have to now ban that player for life too? How is the player’s union going to deal with that if it happens? Very interesting precedent and hypothetical that I hope we don’t ever have to test."]

So here's what we have: an owner having a private conversation with someone that is taped, then made public. Because of what was said in this conversation, he is now no longer allowed to be associate with one of the biggest assets in his possession (the Los Angeles Clippers). Furthermore, there's a good chance that he will be forced to sell this team, his team, without having any say-so regarding who gets to buy.

Am I wrong yet? Yes, I haven't yet touched upon what was said, but am merely painting with a pretty wide brush for the time being. For a reason. Now, Commissioner Silver said verbatim, "The central findings of the investigation are that the man whose voice is heard on the recording and on a second recording from the same conversation that was released on Sunday is Mr. Sterling and that the hateful opinions voiced by that man are those of Mr. Sterling. The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful...Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic league."

As I'm sure you've noted, I've boldened and italicized those comments that are troubling and relevant to the point I wanted to address. And that point is this: where do we draw the line? What are you saying, are you supporting what he said? Are you racist too!? No, I'm not. His opinion regarding those of different ethnicities is reprehensible. HOWEVER, for him to be excommunicated from something that is rightfully his, not because of something he did but because of something he said presents to us a very slippery slope.

And here's why: In a few years, if not a few months, what happens when an owner of a more conservative mindset gets 'caught' on tape (or perhaps: 'baited' on tape) expressing his opinions about homosexuality? Am I the only one that can see this exact same outrage and horror at the intolerance shown to even dare have such an antiquated mentality? Did not a lesser version of this happen with Firefox's ex-CEO (or whatever he was going to be) for making a donation for something the majority of California supported at the time: Prop. 8? Did his opinions (and I would not say you're wrong if you claim the Bible as the ultimate authority and speak in terms of objectivity here rather than subjectivity; I'm in the same boat) cause him to treat others with prejudice? Not one shred of evidence has been found here. Same thing for Mr. Sterling; show me what he has done, not just what he has said, to warrant such an aggressive response. I think there should have been more outrage at his callousness regarding denying an employer health costs for surgery regarding cancer than the comments made by Sterling here.

So, amidst all that sound and fury in the preceding paragraph, I merely wanted to communicate how I think Com. Silver's decision sends a sobering message to not just owners, but players and administrators as well across the league, that if you don't fall in line with what is the popular opinion, you will be punished. Admittedly, I am assuming that people won't be able to differentiate between having a negative view of people of other colors (racism), and holding an opinion- regardless of where it came from- about the acceptance of lifestyle that some still see as deviant (homosexuality). I see the ability to distinguish between these two different things continuing to be eroded, to the point where having an opinion that sees homosexuality as wrong will be as intolerable as racism, and met with the same horror, outrage, and intolerance as we're seeing with Mr. Sterling. And notice that I didn't say that treating someone differently, but merely having an opinion.

In closing, I'll paste just three of the more popular comments from the yahoo sports article concerning Silver's decision. Surprisingly, the reaction from that article is on the opposite end of the spectrum that on BE. Here's what I mean:

  • "Not saying I agree with Sterling but America needs to change the first amendment from freedom of speech to freedom of speech as long as it conforms to what we want it to conform to. I wonder when the commissioner is going to ban Larry Johnson for his all black basketball league racist comments. Sad part is the only person that is going to win in this is Sterling. Not only will he make money off the sale of the team but the impending lawsuit that he will win is going to make him millions."
  • "This cannot be right. As despicable as his comments are he cannot be fined for having a private conversation of whatever nature. He cannot be forced to sell his team for said comments. This is a real slippery slope. People should think about what this means. Everyone has a right to be whatever he/she wants to be in this country, as long as it doesn't put someone else in danger. So Sterling has the right to be racist and say whatever garbage he wants to about black people. There are actions that said black people can take )protest, boycott, etc...) but not this. And yes I am a black man."
  • "So now the NBA has a duty to clean up all aspects of the game - no more racist players, no more racist agents, no more racist coaches - right? How is the league going to explain how Jay-Z is allowed to be an NBA agent after his racial rants "F*** white people. Really. Whites are evil." I would say that this is much worse than Sterling's comments. The commish has a lot of work to do now that he has made this decision. Not defending Sterling, far from it, but this is way over the line for comments made in a private conversation. Expect Sterling to sue the league and make a lot more than $2.5 million. I think this is a really bad move on the commish's part."
  • Ok, I lied, here's a fourth, "So much for private conversations and freedom of speech. Watch out, you might be next."
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