Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Oh The Irony: Mark Steyn

So, in the wake of Donald Sterling being unceremoniously dumped from any association with the NBA, we have Mark Steyn running to his defence.
Even so, it is disturbing to see (as Bill Quick put it) “the use of a man’s property be taken from him because of the way he expressed himself.” And not just any property but a billion-dollar property the man has owned for a third of a century. Solely over views expressed in the course of a two-minute rant at his mistress about the other guys she pals around with.
Oh, right.  So we're supposed to turn a blind eye to it because "it was in private"?  Wrong, Mr. Steyn. Mr. Sterling is free to be as much of an asshole as he wishes - in public or private.  What he overlooked is the consequences of his words being made public.

The NBA administration and the team's players clearly were less than impressed with Mr. Sterling's utterances, private or otherwise.  It's one thing to be a bigot, quite another for it to become so clearly public.  Apparently, there are consequences to that.

If he feels that the NBA's actions are too harsh, Mr. Sterling does have the right to resort to the courts.

The NBA, in this case, is similarly free to express their distaste for Mr. Sterling's beliefs.  Ironically, because an NBA team is a franchise and the NBA is a corporation (a nameless, faceless entity that US law grants people-like rights to in matters such as "freedom of speech"), the NBA is in fact quite within its rights to revoke Mr. Sterling's ownership of the franchise.  (I have no doubt that the franchise agreement has words in it to the effect of "not impugning the good name of the NBA" or something of a sort intended to remind franchisees that their public utterances may well have an impact on their investments.
I’m not so sure being an asshole is still legal in America. Mr. Silver has also fined Sterling $2.5 million – for something he said in his own home recorded without his knowledge. Kareem Abdul Jabar: 
“Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy in such an un-American way..? The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime.”

Perhaps the grand irony is that Mr. Steyn doesn't seem to be ready to acknowledge that perhaps what has happened to Mr. Sterling is really not so different from what used to happen to Black people in the segregation era, or LGBT people in the 1950s.  Buy a house in the wrong part of town, and you'd find yourself run out of the area by the locals.  Heck, sitting on the wrong bus bench could get you arrested.  

What has emerged here is that society has evolved, and now being found to be rather publicly a bigot is no longer acceptable.  Instead, it turns out that there's a price for that.  You see, it's rather interesting the way that works.

As long as there is a degree of decency in how one behaves, freedoms such as Free Speech can go a very long ways to improving things.  When someone like Mr. Sterling goes too far - and I don't really care if it's in public or not - there is a price that society will demand.  Mr. Steyn seems to think that because Sterling's comments were made in "private", that we should give him a pass.

As most politicians have already learned, Mr. Sterling and Mr. Steyn need to learn that in today's world, one needs to exercise discretion at all times, not just when a live microphone is in front of you.  Things have a way of making themselves public.

Is the NBA's response to Mr. Sterling excessive?  Perhaps it is.  On the other hand, the in that same realm of free speech and expression, is the NBA not entitled to take whatever steps are reasonable to protect the image that they wish to project to the world?

As I have said before, "Freedom of Speech" is not the same thing as "Freedom of Speech Without Consequences".  Mr. Steyn continues to overlook the consequences part of the equation.

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