Pro: As private company, NBA can ban Donald Sterling for comments

May 11, 2014 at 12:11 a.m.

While some people may think the National Basketball Association is as important as a government agency, the fact remains - it's not, said David Donaldson, an Austin-based attorney.

The First Amendment prevents government from stifling a citizen's speech, but the NBA is a private, voluntary organization.

So it's the NBA's prerogative to punish Donald Sterling for comments it thinks cast it in a bad light, he said.

University of Houston-Victoria political science lecturer Gino Tozzi agreed.

The NBA confirmed it was Sterling's voice and found he was not remorseful before reaching its decision, Tozzi said.

"They were looking at the future profitability of their organization. They decided they weren't going to alienate their employees and customers by accepting this," he said.

The First Amendment also doesn't insulate one from the reaction he or she might receive, said Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute.

America's founders would still see the necessity of the First Amendment even though they lived under different circumstances, he said.

"Back then, you could be called a syphilitic bastard, and that wasn't a bad day. They were used to a very rough and tumble exchange of ideas," Policinski said. "I think we've moved toward more civility than maybe that time, which makes comments like Sterling's all the more notable and newsworthy."

Sterling is not the first to experience public backlash for something that's come out of his mouth.

The Dixie Chicks' country music career suffered after its lead singer criticized former U.S. President George W. Bush.

Phil Robertson, the patriarch of TLC's TV show "Duck Dynasty," was supposed to be ousted from the program after he made anti-gay remarks.

"I think we'd all be foolish to expect that you're going to jump into the marketplace of ideas without getting some emotional reaction from others," Policinski said.

Local civil attorney John W. Griffin, of Victoria, also thinks what Sterling discussed privately with V. Stiviano is a matter of public concern.

"We have laws to protect people from being judged by the color of their skin when it comes to public events like sporting events," Griffin said. "If this gentleman decided he wanted to associate with someone who wanted to out him for his racial views, he should have perhaps been more vigilant."

Few people file invasion of privacy claims because the prospective damages aren't worth the trouble absent a relationship that would have required V. Stiviano to keep what was said under wraps, Donaldson said.

He wasn't sure whether a mistress or a girlfriend would fall under that category.

Yulonda Wimbish-North and John Grammer, basketball coaches at Victoria East High School, know they represent the district on and off the court.

"Nowadays, with social media and technology, you just have to be really careful, and you just can't take stuff like that back. I'm sure if he had his choice he'd say, 'Man, can I take that back? Can we just delete that? But it doesn't work that way," Grammer said.

Both coaches thought Sterling's punishment was appropriate.

"Being African-American, it was offensive to me to hear that, especially when a lot of his athletes are African-American and so is the head coach," Wimbish-North said. "People are going to think the way they think, but I still feel like that's wrong."

Sterling's position may be on par on the high school level, with Superintendent Robert Jaklich, who tries to attend most games.

He shakes their hands afterward. Knowing he supports and believes in them is important, she said.

"He's at a lot of events. I don't know how he does it," Wimbish-North said.

Grammer said the outcome may have been different if Sterling didn't have a record of racism and was more popular with his players.

He predicted there would have been a leaguewide boycott if the decision was different.

"I think when you take all the variables into play, it's something that had to be done. ... That just doesn't have a place in sports. People need to be judged on their performance," Grammer said.

CON: Donald Sterling's conversation should have been kept private



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