by Ben Shapiro 29 Apr 2014
With the lifetime ban by the NBA of despicably racist Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the door is wide open to further sports bans on people who say offensive things in private.
That, of course, is why Sterling was ousted. Everyone knew for decades that Sterling was a disgusting pig racist – he had federal lawsuits led by the Department of Justice against him for discriminating against blacks, Hispanics, and Asians in housing (one allegation in the 2006 DOJ lawsuit: he said black people “smell”). That would have been an excellent reason for ousting Sterling years ago. The NBA did nothing. Neither did the NAACP, which gave him a lifetime achievement award. But now that his 31-year-old consort has released tape of him saying racist things, the thought police have sprung into action – and the NBA has followed.
Good riddance to Sterling. But let’s understand that ginning up the mob based on private feelings is a dangerous business. We now live in a world in which racial feelings are more important than racist acts (as Sterling’s housing discrimination non-ban shows), and in which bad thought trumps bad action.
Here, then, is a brief list of things that will not get you banned by a sports league for life. The good news: if we tape record all of these people and then hand the tape to Harvey Levin, presumably we can get them banned relatively quickly. Because privacy now extends only to comments with which we agree as a society.
1. Discriminating against black people in housing. Donald Sterling, as mentioned above, settled a lawsuit from the Department of Justice in 2009 in which the DOJ alleged that Sterling had discriminated against Hispanics, blacks, and families without children in housing. According to the lawsuit, Sterling said that “black tenants smell and attract vermin.” The NBA did not react. When specifically asked today, NBA commissioner Adam Silver explicitly said that the NBA’s ban on Sterling had nothing to do with past actions, only his nasty views. Because words speak louder than actions.
2. Strangling somebody. In 1997, Golden State Warriors All-Star Latrell Sprewell, playing for coach P.J. Carlesimo, decided to go berserk after Carlesimo asked him to “put a little mustard” on his passes. Sprewell then wrapped his hands around Carlesimo’s neck and dragged him across the floor for seven seconds. He then emerged later and punched Carlesimo. Two years earlier, he had accosted a teammate with a two-by-four. He was suspended for a grand total of 68 games.
3. Being a publicly vicious racist while black. Spike Lee has stated that white gentrification of Harlem has been horrible, has posted the address of George Zimmerman’s parents online to spur violence, has explained after visiting South Africa in the early 1990s, “I seriously wanted to pick up a gun and shoot whites. The only way to resolve matters is by bloodshed.” He, like Donald Sterling, is no fan of interracial dating: “I give interracial couples a look. Daggers. They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street.” He’s currently a host on NBA Radio on SiriusXM, stars in NBA commercials, and had a front-row seat to the Sterling announcement.
Then there’s Jay Z. Jay Z isn’t just fêted by the President of the United States. He’s a former part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets and, as an agent, works closely with the league. He was spotted recently at an NBA game wearing a necklace medallion for the Five Percent Nation, which sees black men as gods and white people as devils.
4. Using anti-gay slurs. In 2011, Kobe Bryant called referee Bennie Adams a “faggot.” He received a $100,000 fine and no suspension. In 2012, current Clippers forward Matt Barnes called an officer a “f***ing faggot,” then made an attempt to handcuff him. There was no fine. He was suspended for one game. The suspension was unrelated to the slur. In 2012, Amare Stoudemire of the New York Knicks sent an anti-gay slur to a fan via Twitter. He was fined $50,000. There was no suspension. In 2013, Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers used an anti-gay slur and was fined $75,000, without suspension. The Houston Rockets team is currently being sued by a gay waiter for their alleged use of anti-gay slurs. The NBA has taken no action.
5. Attacking patrons of your sport. In 2004, Stephen Jackson and Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers leapt into the stands in Detroit to attack fans. Jermaine O’Neal fought fans on the court. A full-scale melee ensued with players fighting fans and fans fighting players. The result: Ron Artest was suspended the remainder of the season, Jackson was suspended for 30 games, and O’Neal was suspended for 15 games. In 1995, when Houston Rockets guard Vernon Maxwell didn’t like the comments of a fan, he charged into the stands and punched him. That resulted in a whopping 10 game suspension.
6. Pushing your girlfriend to have an abortion, then harassing her about it. In 2013, the press reported that current Clippers guard JJ Redick had an abortion contract with girlfriend Vanessa Lopez. When she became pregnant, the contract stipulated, she would have to have an abortion, and Redick would then have to “maintain a social and/or dating relationship” with her for a year or pay her $25,000. When she refused to have an abortion, he pressured her to do so. So far, there have been no repercussions.
7. Drawing your gun on a fellow player. Gilbert Arenas was suspended for 50 games, and his teammate Javaris Crittenton was suspended for 38 games after they drew firearms on each other while arguing over gambling debts. In the locker room.
8. Reckless driving resulting in a passenger’s death. In 2009, JR Smith, then of the Denver Nuggets, pled guilty to reckless driving. His reckless driving resulted in one of his passengers dying. He was suspended a total of 9 games.
None of this makes Donald Sterling’s repulsive and disgusting racism okay. None of it means that he shouldn’t have been tossed out of the NBA – for his racist activity. But it does demonstrate that for the NBA, the only reason Sterling is gone is media-driven hysteria over a private tape release. It certainly isn’t the NBA’s high moral standard with regard to language, race, or activity. And that is more of a commentary on the culture of the NBA and the lack of standards in the media than anything else.