Does anyone doubt that Donald Sterling is an idiot? Not just for making discriminatory comments but also (as we have learned) for his history of discrimination in real estate ventures. The media has convicted him and the NBA has sentenced him – stripping him of ownership of his basketball team. Maybe this is deserved but I have to wonder about the process . . . .
Donald Sterling has done nothing illegal. None of his players or employees have ever accused him of discrimination — or making racist comments. But the media was quick to stir up public opinion and condemn him and the NBA followed in lockstep — ordering his property — the Los Angeles Clippers — forcibly sold. Donald Sterling has not had much to say in his defense though the media remains apoplectic.
I rarely agree with the American Civil Liberties Union but they have often said that the First Amendment was designed to protect offensive and unpopular speech. If you can’t protect unpopular speech, then there is no Freedom of Speech as provided by the First Amendment to the Constitution (“. . . no laws . . .abridging the freedom of speech“). Does it seem like Americans are losing that right of free speech? Then there’s the 5th Amendment which states that “nor shall any person . . . .be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” Was there due process here? And then there is the 14th Amendment’s (section 1) restatement of that expectation. And then there is the 6th Amendment’s right to a speedy trial.
We may want to hold our collective noses over Donald Sterling’s nasty comments but should we suspend the Constitution to punish him? Frankly the media would probably have looked the other way if he had shoplifted a can of coffee or punched out a well-deserving paparazzi. But most journalists don’t care about justice. As President Barack Obama said following the incident “When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything. You just let them talk. And wait for them to fade away.“