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The Donald Sterling Story isn’t a tragedy — Yet

Posted on 29 April 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

Forget what you’ve heard about the Donald Sterling story; the tragedy hasn’t happened yet.

Racism, bigotry and prejudice are merely a backdrop to what’s coming.

The remarks made by the embattled Clippers owner are disappointing, but hardly earth-shattering. At the end of the day, the world–friends of Sterling and everyone else–discovered that Sterling isn’t who they thought he was.

Much like the world didn’t think Tiger Woods was a sex addict, didn’t realize that Ben Roethlisberger was the type of guy who would assault a woman in a hotel room, and never would have imagined that Lance Armstrong was a stone-faced liar.

People, especially those we only think we know, often turn out differently than we expected. The Sterling-saga isn’t the first of its nature and it surely won’t be the last. Remember Don Imus and the “nappy-headed hos” comment? It was stupid. Just like what Sterling said–stupid.

And the only thing that can make this whole situation more stupid, and potentially tragic, would be to force the sale of the LA Clippers franchise.

Suggest the sale? Sure, that’s fine. Recommend the sale? Yea, that’s fair. Force the sale? Oh, wow, that’s a major, major problem.

By forcing the sale of a professional sports franchise, based on recordings recovered by gossip-based media outlets like TMZ would be irresponsible, stupid, and essentially tragic. Yes, tragic; it could be that bad.

If professional sports leagues–or any sort of organization–were to have the power to start dictating who must sell or forfeit their privately-owned businesses and teams, based on their words, thoughts, and beliefs, it would be a major infringement on our culture and a dangerous challenge to freedom.

Let’s backtrack for a minute. Did Donald Sterling threaten anyone? Did he specifically use words and slang terms that could incite retaliation and potential violence? Did he violate any labor laws?

The answer to all of these questions is “no, no, and no.”

Is Sterling–by most accounts–a racist? Yes. Is he half off-his-rocker? Sure seems like it. Did he offend the general public and essentially sever any and all relationships, both public and private? You betcha.

But he didn’t kill anyone. He didn’t put anyone in danger. He didn’t violate anyone’s personal rights. He made ignorant statements that exposed a narrow-minded view of the world. If ignorance is the new Litmus Test for whether or not an owner should have to forfeit his business or his team, than we’re in incredibly troubling times.

Racism exists in society and so does stupidity. Neither are tragic, they’re merely unfortunate and intolerable to the point of disassociation. But neither are grounds for forfeiture of rights or businesses.

If this is the new precedent, it paves the way for power to drastically fall into the wrong hands. It promotes a lack of diverse thinking and opinion among members of society–even though, in this case, we’re dealing with an opinion and view that the majority of us don’t appreciate and aren’t willing to tolerate. That’s the beauty of freedom, no one truly has to believe or support anything he or she doesn’t want to.

If Donald Sterling wants to be a racist, what’s the issue with that, other than the fact that you and I don’t choose to agree with him?

There’s an easy solution to all of this. Simply don’t tolerate it. Don’t go to Clippers’ games. Don’t buy jerseys. Write letters to advertisers and persuade them to take a stand against Donald Sterling and drop their marketing deals. That’s all part of free speech and the beauty of having your own opinion and the ability to exercise what you believe and think to be right.

There’s a major difference in putting pressure on someone to do something and forcing their hand legally.

The only thing that would trump Donald Sterling’s stupidity and ignorance would be the decision to force him to give up his franchise based solely on the things he said in a private conversation. That’s when this whole situation goes beyond being stupid.

That’s when it shifts toward tragedy.

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