No such thing as 'private conversation'

An old axiom is even truer in today’s world.

It is that one should never say anything that he or she doesn’t want repeated.

Welcome to the 21st century, Donald Sterling.

The Los Angeles Clippers owner has been banned from the National Basketball Association for life. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver imposed the ban and fined Sterling $2.5 million because he went off on a disgusting, racist rant in what he thought was a private conversation with his, um, girlfriend.

The rant, which has become the talk of much of Planet Earth, has consigned Sterling to a most unwelcome role of pariah. He’ll likely have to sell his team. He is no longer able to participate in any team or league activities. He’s a goner.

What does this mean, though, in terms of privacy? It means that in this world of instant communication, where everyone has a camera or a listening device, one must take the greatest care to keep from saying something he or she doesn’t want known. He likely didn’t know he was being recorded and he surely didn’t believe his girlfriend would be the one to reveal the conversation, which I am certain is the case.

Sterling went off for about an hour, telling his girlfriend he doesn’t like her associating in public with African-Americans; he said he doesn’t want her bringing African-Americans to games involving his team. He made an absolutely disgusting spectacle of himself and in the process made a hero out of Commissioner Silver, who acted decisively — and correctly — in issuing the harshest sanction possible against the team owner.

Recent history is full of examples of public figures being “outed” by people with cameras or audio recorders. For example, Mitt Romney fell victim to a recording of his infamous “47 percent” comment about Americans who vote Democratic because they depend on government. Others have had their private behavior exposed for all the world to see. They have said things they’ve later regretted.

Donald Sterling provides the latest shining example of the price one pays for speaking from the depths of his soul, which in this case has been shown to be a dark place, indeed.