The other shoe dropped, and however it may be intended, it’s an ethical shoe. Donald Sterling now says that he’ll refuse to pay the 2.5 million dollar fine levied on him by NBA Commissioner Silver and his fellow owners for what he said in his own bedroom.
Good. I was waiting for this, and hoping that would be his course of action. Ironically, a good, compliant, progressive billionaire, and one who was not, unlike Sterling, a repulsive asshole, who was nationally embarrassed as Sterling has been, would crawl quietly into a hole, periodically send out big checks and mea culpas to Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the NAACP, and in the process, take big, bloody chunks out of our freedom to think and speak freely, and our personal privacy. Sterling is doing the right thing, although it is going to cause him to be even more vilified by the media and even more assailed as the personification of racism than he has been already—and that has already been disproportionate to his “crime.”
Fighting is also going to be expensive. Never mind. It is revolting to write it, or even think it, but he is fighting for all of us.
The reason is simple, and the logic is irrefutable. Nobody, anywhere, in a free country, should be fined $2,500,000 dollars for what they say in the presumed privacy of their own bedroom, in their own home. Nobody. Ever. No matter how awful and ugly they are, and no matter how horrible their sentiment of the moment. It doesn’t matter if an American says that he or she worships Adolf Hitler, hopes the United States is over-run by Chinese guerrillas, believes homosexuals should have to wear pink armbands in the street, craves the sexual congress of Jon and Kate’s Eight, fantasizes about boiling puppies, believes slavery should be re-instated and would pay money to watch Barack Obama shoved into in a wood-chipper. If these are thoughts expressed only to those who are trusted, and reserved for private expression only in the sanctity of the home, monetary fines by anyone, or any organization, are abusive and unreasonable, not just as a matter of law (yes, I think the fine will be found excessive, though it will cost Sterling and the NBA far more than the fine to get a judge to say so) but as a matter of ethics. Nobody should be fined for thoughts, however vicious, ignorant or unpleasant.
The NBA, in punishing Sterling, was grandstanding, and playing to the mob. Every commentator and blogger was trying to top the other by declaring how, no, he was the one most sickened by Sterling’s comments. Every conceivable negative description were applied to them, even ones that clearly didn’t apply ( his comments were not “defamatory,” for example, as I heard more than one lawyer claim on camera), so Silver thought he had to prove that the NBA really, really really thought what Sterling said was disgusting, so on top of banning Sterling from the NBA, added the huge fine, like a decorative cherry.
Sterling can afford it like I can afford a hamburger; that’s not the point. Foolish UCLA returned more than that to him already by rejecting Sterling’s donation to kidney disease research (because we all know sick people would rather die than be saved by the money of a purported racist), and that’s not the point either. I don’t care what Sterling signed, and it doesn’t matter what he said. No citizen in the United States of American should be fined for what he says or does in his bedroom if it breaks no laws, and a growing number of badly educated and self-righteous censors need to be reminded of that principle.
Sterling should agree to sell his team in the best interests of the league, but absolutely refuse to pay any fine. Of the two, the latter is by far the more important to our culture.
As horrible as it is for us to have to rely on such a scuzzy champion, Sterling is fighting for our freedom. For that, and nothing else, we owe him our respect and gratitude.