So … I’m watching a bit of news at work the other day when a colleague walks up and says of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, “I don’t think he should have to pay a damn thing for what he said. Whatever happened to freedom of speech?”
He wasn’t finished. Then he took off on the controversy over that New Hampshire police chief who called President Obama an “n-word,” and then said he wasn’t going to apologize for saying it. “He’s got a right to say what he wants,” my colleague said.
He said a bunch of other things. I chose not to engage him at that moment, as there were customers present.
I’ll answer him here.
Freedom of speech? He thinks it’s threatened by so-called “political correctness.” That’s what I got from him. If that’s the case, he’s wrong.
Donald Sterling has the right to say the things he did to his, uh, girlfriend. You know, the stuff about his disliking her hanging out with black athletes and bringing them to his basketball games. He can say those things.
The National Basketball Association to which he belongs as a team owner, however, has the right to impose certain codes of conduct upon team owners, players, coaches, ball boys and girls, and cheerleaders. Sterling broke the rules when he spouted off as he did with those reprehensible comments about African-Americans. His comments entered the public domain and the NBA has acted according to its bylaws.
It banned him for life, fined him $2.5 million and is pressuring other team owners to get him relieved of his team.
As for the n-word-spouting police chief, he also has the right to say what he said. He’s also a public official in a community that has the right to demand better of the people it pays with the taxpayer money.
The Constitution’s First Amendment isn’t in jeopardy here. It still stands. The Neanderthal cop and the sad-sack NBA team owner have just been caught saying things decent human beings shouldn’t say about other human beings.
Long live freedom of speech — and long live those who demand better of those who say disgraceful things.