Donald Sterling And The Right To Privacy

I have been hesitant to offer my thoughts on the Donald Sterling episode for fear of being labeled a Donald Sterling supporter because I refuse to jump on the mob bandwagon that believes that Donald Sterling should be stripped of his ownership of the Clippers because of comments that he made within the privacy of his own home.  Label me as you wish.  This is what I believe. 

We do a great job of pretending that we care about privacy in this country unless an invasion of privacy provides the results that we want.  We claim to be upset about domestic spying and invasion of our privacy in the name of homeland security but I believe that is only because the government has not been able to produce any evidence that domestic spying is actually making us “safer.”  If the government was able to show the American people that domestic spying was thwarting terrorist threats and preventing 9-11 style attacks I believe that many in this country would not care about the government prying into our personal matters if it was keeping us “safe.” 

On a similar note, we do not seem to care that Donald Sterling was banned from life by the NBA and is facing imminent removal of his ownership of the Clippers because of comments he made in the privacy of his home because we like the results.  A filthy racist is getting his just rewards for being a hateful and despicable person.  It is not that simple.  The fact that Donald Sterling is a racist and a despicable person is well documented.  But we are forgetting that his racist rant that was released to the public last week did not come in an interview, or at a public speaking event, or even a closed door board meeting.  It came within the privacy of his home.  The soon to be established precedent that an owner of a professional sports franchise can be stripped of his ownership by his fellow owners for comments made in private at his or her home is a disturbing one if you really believe in the right to privacy all of the time, not just when it is convenient. 

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks was spot one when he said last week that the punishment of Donald Sterling puts the NBA on a slippery slope and that people in this country “are allowed to be morons.”  The chances that this is a one time deal and that NBA owners will not be publicly scrutinized in the future for private comments is highly unlikely.  It is predicted by many that the other 29 NBA owners will vote 29-0 in favor of forcing Donald Sterling to sell the Clippers.  I would not be surprised if the vote is actually 28-1 with Mark Cuban sticking to his guns and voting against a forced sale.  But it will happen.  That is not a question.  But the question that should be asked moving forward is what next?  Will the Miller family, owners of the Utah Jazz have their ownership scrutinized if private documents are leaked showing that the Miller family made significant financial contributions to Prop 8 or other legislation attempting to prevent same sex marriage?  Will the NBA now be able to fine Mark Cuban for not his just public criticism of referees but for private criticism as well?  Those questions remain unanswered and maybe I am just being an alarmist but once you give away the right to privacy to a governing body you will not get it back.  History has shown us time and time again that governments and governing bodies never give back what is given to them by the governed.  

Instead of patting ourselves on the back for outing a racist and taking his property, we should be asking ourselves how much we value our right to privacy.  Is outing racists more important than privacy?  Is making sure everyone is thinking and saying politically correct things more important than our privacy?  The answer appears to be that it depends, but that is not how it works.  It either is or it is not.  


Posted by Hatch  



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