Tag Archives: NBA

Privacy rights sacked for one old racist’s scalp

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and V. Stiviano

Associated Press photo

In this late 2010 photo, Donald Sterling and his former mistress, V. Stiviano, watch Sterling’s team, the Los Angeles Clippers, play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA pre-season basketball game. Apparently, in a vengeful move, Stiviano released illegally recorded racist comments made by Sterling, and a nation that no longer is bothered by blatant violations of privacy has mostly overlooked this element to the scandal, which I find chilling. 

Soon-to-be-former Los Angeles Clippers team owner Donald Sterling strikes me as a racist asshole. Probably the best thing that we can say about him is that he has far many more days on this planet behind him than he has ahead of him. So let’s agree on that, since that may be all that we can agree on in this post.

The thing is that I have a real problem with the way that Sterling has been publicly tarred and feathered. How you do something, and how something comes about, do matter.

First of all, I agree wholeheartedly with fellow leftist Ted Rall that Sterling’s privacy rights very apparently were violated. As Rall notes in a column he recently wrote for aNewDomain.net (the links are Rall’s):

… Yet there’s a major part of the Sterling story that American journalists aren’t covering. One that’s just as important as the reminder that racism is still thriving in the executive suite — a suite whose profits derive mostly from African-American players, and whose boss has a half-black, half-Mexican girlfriend, no less.

What about Sterling’s privacy rights?

They tell us privacy is dead. Online, between the NSA and the public’s failure to take to the streets to bitch about the NSA, privacy is probably finished.

But what about a private phone call?

V. Stiviano, Sterling’s 31-year-old former mistress, appears to have surreptitiously recorded the call, baiting him into making disgusting remarks for the record and releasing it to the media, including the gossip sites TMZ and Deadspin, in retaliation for a $1.8 million lawsuit filed last week by Sterling’s wife. Mrs. Sterling is seeking the return of an apartment, cash and several cars — communal marital property under California law — that Sterling gave Stiviano.

Contextually, this is more gossip than journalism, closer to the ranting Alec Baldwin voice mail to his daughter tacklessly released by ex-wife Kim Basinger, than anything like WikiLeaks. We aren’t supposed to know about this. [I mostly agree with this, but when you leave a voice mail, you know that you are being recorded, and so that is a critical difference from being recorded without your knowledge or consent.]

What’s being ignored amid a firestorm of controversy so out of control that even the president of the United States felt compelled to weigh in on this matter so beneath the dignity of his office is this: Sterling’s privacy rights have been violated, both legally and morally.

Which is not good for him. Much more importantly, it’s terrible for us. …

I will add that in criminal law, there is the concept of the “fruit of the poisonous tree.” This means that evidence against a person that is obtained illegally — such as by violating one’s constitutional right to privacy — may not be introduced into the courtroom. If you did not obtain the incriminating evidence legally — constitutionally — you may not use it against the individual.

Further, as Rall goes on to note in his column:

… First, the legal issue: California, where this call almost certainly took place, requires the consent of both parties in order to record a phone conversation. Stiviano risks a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. (There doesn’t appear to be a penalty for making the recording public. California’s state assembly should consider one.) …

I, for one, hope that a district attorney prosecutes Sterling for her criminal act (although I doubt that that will happen, because of the race-charged politics of this matter), and I hope that Sterling sues Stiviano in civil court for having violated his right to privacy. (Um, he certainly can prove that he has sustained damages…)

I make this stance not to support a racist, as the race hustlers will accuse me (and there are so-called race hustlers of every race), but I make this stance to support the principle that a blatant violation of another’s constitutional right to privacy — such as recording him or her during a phone call and then publicizing the surreptitious recording of that phone call — should be punished. If it isn’t punished, then it means that privacy, and the law, mean nothing. (I know…)

Many certainly want to make an example of Sterling where racism is concerned — more on this shortly — and these same people, if they truly support our constitutional rights, which even blatant racists possess (just as they possess free-speech rights), should be fine with the privacy-rights-violating Stiviano’s being made an example of also.

Rall continues:

… Then there’s the moral question.

I have no beef with TMZ. When reporters find news, it is their duty to report it no matter where it comes from or who, it hurts. I’m a purist on this point: I don’t think WikiLeaks or Edward Snowden had any moral duty to protect intelligence secrets, not even the identities of spies, when they released classified U.S. government documents.

My problem is that nobody else seems to have a problem with recording private conversations and releasing them to the media.

As we learned from The People vs. Larry Flynt, society must defend its worst scumbags from having his rights violated, or everyone else risks losing theirs too. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a world where every stupid thing I blather over the phone is potential fodder for public comment, Twitter wars and cause for dismissal from work.

Until we descend into the Stasi-like “Lives of Others” dystopia into which the NSA seems determined to transform the Land of the Formerly Free, everyone — including racist douchebags like Donald Sterling — ought to enjoy a reasonable presumption of privacy on the telephone. …

Yup.

And how about some due process? It was unseemly to have even the president of the United States calling for Sterling’s scalp before it was even concluded whether or not it was Sterling’s voice on the illegal recording. (Like most others, at this point I more or less am taking Sterling’s non-denial as fairly solid confirmation that it was indeed his voice that illegally was recorded, but at this point, if we value the truth, we will admit that we still have no actual evidence that it was indeed Sterling’s voice. [If Sterling has confessed, then OK, I stand pretty corrected, but I haven’t seen news of such a confession yet, if there is such news.])

And of course the mayor of my city (Sacrament0), former NBA player Kevin Johnson, had to insert himself into the whole Sterling mess, publicly declaring today, “I hope every bigot in this country saw what happened to Mr. Sterling.”

Johnson reportedly has been “a leading spokesman for NBA players during the Sterling controversy.”

I don’t know — the mayor of my city making such a threatening statement strikes me as thuggery. That’s a loaded word, thuggery, I know, but does Johnson’s public proclamation — his public threat exactly foster reconciliation among the races? Or does it only deepen racial divisions? Was Johnson, with his public statement — his thinly veiled threat — utilizing love or fear?

It was unseemly and unstatesmanlike, methinks, for Johnson to wave Sterling’s scalp in his hand as he did, and I can tell you, having lived in Sacramento during Johnson’s tenure as mayor (he’s now in his second term), that Johnson has done little for the city (California’s capital) outside of his personal interests.

Johnson apparently cares only about basketball (he recently was quite instrumental in denying us Sacramentans the ability to vote on whether or not there should be public funding for a new basketball arena that has been shoved down our throats by Johnson & Co.) and the ambitions of his wife, the infamous Michelle Rhee, to destroy teachers’ unions and turn our public schools into for-profit schools.

(And perhaps you should know that contributing to my use of the term “thuggery” above is the fact that from Day One, Johnson has pushed his so-called “strong-mayor” initiative, a rewrite of city governance that would greatly increase his power and decrease the power of the city council. Johnson has been pushing for this right since he took office. Kevin Johnson always has been, and always will be, all about Kevin Johnson and more pure, raw, political power for Kevin Johnson. He’s yet another example of why former jocks almost never should be handed the reins of power.)

I suppose that I digressed there (but I view Johnson as corrupt and dangerous as he is ambitious, and so I believe in educating people about what he’s really all about), but I come back now to the concept of the fruit of the poisoned tree: If it was even legal to do so, was it fair for Donald Sterling to have been punished as harshly as he was* for something that he said during a phone conversation that he had thought was private but that illegally was recorded by the other party, apparently for revenge? (Why else would you record a phone conversation, in whole or in part, except to use the recording later, such as by releasing it to other parties or by threatening to release it to other parties?)

I highly doubt that not one of the many black (and other non-white) Americans (prominent and non-prominent) who have publicly (and privately) slammed Donald Sterling for his racism never has uttered anti-white sentiment (and/or other racist sentiment) in a private communication with another individual.

How would any of them like it if a recording of them engaging in such talk in private were made public?

In the Sterling affair I just don’t see a national quest for justice and for racial reconciliation. I see Sterling as the stand-in for all old white bigots. Indeed, the size of his punishment indicates that Sterling is being punished not only for his own crimes, but for those of many, many others. (Indeed, Kevin Johnson directly proclaimed today, in his characteristically self-serving grandstanding, that he publicly was waving Sterling’s scalp as an example to “every bigot in this country.”)

That’s not fair, and making a scapegoat of Sterling — while ignoring the fact that his constitutional right to privacy blatantly was violated — won’t improve race relations in the United States of America. Indeed, it might make them worse.

Racism is institutionalized, is deeply ingrained, within the United States of America, and the racial hatreds in the United States are not only one way, whites hating blacks, but also run the other way, blacks hating whites, and of course the other races also engage in race-based hatred, and so we have many possible permutations of raced-based hatred in the U.S., and there is no quick or easy fix to this ugliness.

Electing a black president (twice) sure hasn’t helped very much — as Tavis Smiley remarked in October, “The data is going to indicate, sadly, that when the Obama administration is over, black people will have lost ground in every single leading economic indicator category” — and neither will punishing one old white bigot by dangling him in the public square for all to see and revile.

P.S. I listened to the clip of Kevin Johnson again, and the fuller, more accurate quote is: “I hope every bigot in this country sees what happened to Mr. Sterling and recognizes that if he can fall, so can you.”

Wow. Is that really the tone that we want to set for interracial reconciliation? And what does this mean, exactly? That from now on all of us can expect to have our phone conversations recorded, because all is fair in interracial warfare?

*Yes, it seems to me that imposing upon Sterling the maximum allowable $2.5 million fine, banning him from the NBA for life, and forcing him to sell his team for something that he said in an illegally recorded phone conversation probably is too harsh a punishment for the crime, a crime that he could not even be criminally tried for, since the evidence against him was obtained illegally and unconstitutionally.

It seems to me that we’re no better than Sterling if we celebrate his downfall, which has been orchestrated so underhandedly, and that when one person’s privacy so casually can be violated, then none of us has any privacy.

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Magical Elves, sparkleponies and other assorted gay shit

Pro-gay ally NFL player Chris Kluwe’s colorfully titled book is due out next month. Kluwe earlier this month was dropped by the Minnesota Vikings but was picked up by the Oakland Raiders. I’m glad and proud to have him as a fellow Californian; Minnesota’s loss is California’s gain.

I usually comment on gay-rights issues in the news in a timely fashion, but I’ve been slacking as of late. So here I’ll try to catch up:

It was great to see basketball player Jason Collins, the first active player from one of the “Big Four” sports organizations (the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League ), come out late last month, even if there is at least a grain of truth to gay writer Bret Easton Ellis’ criticism that Collins’ treatment by the media “as some kind of baby panda who needed to be honored and praised and consoled and — yes — infantilized by his coming out on the cover of Sports Illustrated” also made Collins a “Gay Man as Magical Elf, who whenever he comes out appears before us as some kind of saintly E.T. whose sole purpose is to be put in the position of reminding us only about Tolerance and Our Own Prejudices and To Feel Good About Ourselves and to be a symbol instead of just being a gay dude.”

And I also was happy to hear the news that pro-gay ally NFL player Chris Kluwe, who was dropped by the Minnesota Vikings earlier this month (perhaps at least in part due to his vocal pro-gay-and-pro-gay-marriage stance), shortly thereafter was picked up by the Oakland Raiders.

If Minnesota didn’t appreciate Kluwe, I’m happy to have him here in California, where Kluwe already has done us some good: Kluwe and another pro-gay ally, NFL player Brendon Ayanbadejo, per Wikipedia, “filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on February 28, 2013, regarding Hollingsworth v. Perry, in which they expressed their support of the challenge to California Proposition 8,” which in 2008 amended California’s Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, a right that California’s Supreme Court had ruled was guaranteed to Californians by the state’s Constitution before the haters later amended it with Prop H8.

I admire the very apparently heterosexual Kluwe, who is heterosexually married and has two children. According to Wikipedia, Kluwe wrote a blog called “Out of Bounds” for a Minnesota newspaper before he quit the blog last year in protest of the newspaper’s having run an editorial in support of the euphemistically titled “Minnesota Marriage Amendment,” which, just as Prop H8 did in California, would have amended the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage. (That amendment failed at the ballot box in November, with the haters losing by just more than 5 percentage points, and subsequently the Minnesota Legislature legalized same-sex marriage this month.)

It takes balls and selflessness to fight for a historically discriminated against and oppressed group of people of whom you apparently aren’t a member. Kluwe did the right thing by boycotting the anti-gay newspaper.

Kluwe also has been outspoken about the facts that not all athletes are dumb jocks and that there is more to life than football, even for an NFL player.

And yeah, I’ll probably buy his upcoming book, Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities, which is due out next month.

Also this month, three states approved same-sex marriage: Delaware, Rhode Island, and, as I mentioned, Minnesota. (I find it ironic that just after the Minnesota Vikings dropped Kluwe, very possibly at least in part due to his advocacy for same-sex marriage, the state’s Legislature enacted same-sex marriage.)

True, Rhode Island and Delaware are only our 43rd and 45th most populous states, respectively, but Minnesota is our 21st most populous state, and it joins Iowa as another Midwestern state with same-sex marriage. Once the Midwest goes, how far behind can the rest of the nation be?

Finally, I found it to be a pleasant surprise to learn that President Barack Obama, this past weekend in his commencement speech to the graduates of the all-male, historically African-American Morehouse College, remarked, “… and that’s what I’m asking all of you to do: keep setting an example for what it means to be a man. Be the best husband to your wife or your boyfriend or your partner. Be the best father you can be to your children. Because nothing is more important.”

True, Obama’s wording was inelegant.* If you were a man who had married your boyfriend, he would be your “husband” or your “spouse” or your “partner” or however else you chose to refer to him (hell, call him your “wife” if you want to and if he is OK with that; it’s your marriage, not mine). But if you had married him, you probably wouldn’t still be referring to him as your “boyfriend.”

Still, I found it at least a bit encouraging for the president of the United States of America, whatever his other many flaws and missteps might be, basically state in a college commencement address before an all-male audience that marrying a member of the same sex is perfectly fine if that is what is right for the individual.

You never would have heard George W. Bush, or even Bill Clinton, utter those words at a commencement ceremony.

I noted above that Chris Kluwe is “heterosexually married.” I did that on purpose; married” no longer should automatically mean heterosexually married; “married” should include the possibility of being homosexually married — in all 50 states and in every nation on the planet that recognizes marriage between heterosexuals.

And one day, it won’t matter; “married” will just be married, and no one will much care, if he or she cares at all, whether it’s a same-sex marriage or an opposite-sex marriage.

But it still matters now, and we Magical Elves and our allies have a lot of work to do between today and the day that it no longer matters because everyone (or at least almost everyone) realizes that each and every one of us is a beautifully unique sparklepony.

*Slate.com’s William Saletan reports that Obama’s prepared remark was “Be the best husband to your wife or boyfriend to your partner or father to your children that you can be,” but, again, what Obama actually said was, “Be the best husband to your wife or your boyfriend or your partner.”

Saletan writes:

… But this time, the speech didn’t go according to script. Literally. Obama changed the “boyfriend” line from hetero boilerplate to explicitly gay-inclusive. He ad-libbed. And this was a heck of a time to do it. The speech was about what it means to be a man. The president of the United States, who until a year ago didn’t support same-sex marriage, has just put an official stamp of masculinity on male homosexuality. …

That’s certainly a possibility; it’s a valid interpretation, and it would be my interpretation, too, more or less, but, in my viewing of the clip of the remark, it appears to me as though Obama does stumble and/or hesitate a bit in getting the words out, with a nervous-and-unsure-of-himself-sounding inflection on the final word of that sentence, “partner,” and it’s not 100 percent clear to me whether he stumbles over these words because he’s messing them up or because he’s not sure how what he is saying — that it’s perfectly OK for a man to marry a man — is going to be received by his audience (Morehouse College, after all, is in Georgia, a state that isn’t exactly known as a gay-friendly state).

Indeed, sadly, if you also watch the clip, you will hear and see that after Obama asks his audience to “keep setting an example for what it means to be a man,” he has to pause for applause, but then, after he says next, “Be the best husband to your wife or your boyfriend or your partner,” very apparently his audience at first is silent in momentary confusion but then breaks out in some derisive laughter and mumbling and grumbling.

Indeed, in response to this very apparent derision over his remark that a man may marry a man, Obama puts his index finger up to his audience in apparent admonishment over their apparent homophobia.

As I said, we still have a way to go.

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