Yesterday, the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Donald Sterling for life from the NBA for racist comments that he made in the privacy of his home that happened to be recorded by his now estranged mistress. I have followed the NBA for years and know that for business reasons Donald Sterling was considered to be a bad owner. The Clippers, until recently, have never been known as a model franchise with a culture of winning and playing the right way.
I have no doubt that for many reasons the punitive actions taking against Mr. Sterling were the right thing to do and that Adam Silver would not have had made the decision he had made if the other NBA owners had not seen this as the right thing to do for the NBA brand and for the NBA players. But after three days of non-stop talk on various sports channels about this issue, I can tell you Adam Silver’s decision was not a lone brave act. Bravery is too often overused and misused by the media. I would considering as doing the right thing despite some type of opposition. There was no voice of opposition in the media and in the NBA to not punish Donald Sterling in some way. Let’s face Donald Sterling made himself an easy mark by coming across as a greedy, immoral, racist rich, old white man whose bad habits finally caught up with him. You did not have to have a strong sense of right and wrong, but only ride the wave general and widespread condemnation to conclude that something needed to be done.
In all of the talk over the last few days, there were a few voices that stood out. One was Mark Cuban’s comments about condemning someone for something they said in the privacy of their own home when they were unwittingly being recorded by someone who had an ax to grind and who by many would be considered a gold-digger. Someone not necessarily seeking social justice, but seeking a greedy agenda of her own. While Mr. Sterling’s comments were racist and he had a history of being racist therefore easier to justify his vilification, but do we really want to get in the habit punish speech made in the privacy of own homes, especially when that speech is being recorded by someone with unscrupulous motives.
And this has always been a concern of mine is that in the pursuit of social justice are we trying to build up society or are we just to destroy and tear down people. Only once did a I hear any voice any concern about Donald Sterling and that was Charles Barkley. There really is no justice without mercy and no mercy without justice and we do not do a good with social policy in general at balancing these two concepts. We are a society that for the most part operates in denial that our acts and our thoughts have consequences, we are very disconnected from this concept when it comes to our own behavior and only recognizes it when someone who does not hold the same values as us does something egregious. Secondly, I think too often especially in the media every jumps on the bandwagon of condemnation and nobody dares to offer up any mercy. The real danger in this is having our pursuit of justice become hateful and destructive, does our pursuit of justice only operate on win-lose, zero sum strategy or do we have the moral capacity to devise a win-win strategy wear we can build up all parties involved and minimize collateral damage to other people and virtues. As George Albert Smith once said:
“The Spirit of the Lord is kindness, charity, love and forbearance and there are none of us who do not need all of these virtues.”