There's much ado about the situation regarding Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA Clippers ("What about Donald Sterling's First Amendment rights?" April 29). Many years ago, Mr. Sterling was slapped with a lawsuit for discriminating against minorities in housing. It cost him millions to resolve. In 2009, after donating money to the NAACP (a questionable connection), he was awarded one of that organization's prestigious awards. He was about to receive another Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP when this story hit the pages.
With that having been said, let me explain something that no news agencies will tell you for fear of being boycotted. You can create laws to discourage discrimination that will hamper someone's chances of receiving their just rewards. You can even create laws that discourage someone from openly calling another person a derogatory name. In both cases, one can make a moral claim that these laws are just. However, what Mr. Sterling is guilty of in this recent episode is expressing his private thoughts in a private conversation with his so-called girlfriend. What she may be guilty of is taping this conversation, supposedly without his knowledge and permission. His racist remarks were not geared to preventing anyone from some form of gain. In fact, he's known for hiring black general managers and black coaches, and his team is largely black.
When a society becomes so hysterical about racism (or anything else) that they wish to punish someone for their private thoughts and private words that aren't plotted to do harm, then we've delved into the realm of believing that it's moral to become the "thought police." At that point, we've set the standards for a controlled society. You may find Mr. Sterling repugnant, and the emotional child within you may want to strike back at him, but a mature society recognizes that even repugnant people are entitled to their private lives.
Donald Frost, Essex
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