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Even a bigot is protected by the first amendment

This week the world once again found out how much of a bigot Donald Sterling, the owner of the LA. Clippers is, but this time people are paying attention.

Donald Sterling the NBA's longest tenured owner ponders his future
Photo by Stephen Dunn

While having a conversation with his mistress Vanessa Stiviano, who happens to be biracial, Sterling revealed his hatred toward black men and people in general. Ms Stiviano exposed his racism to the world by releasing the recording to TMZ.

Here is a partial transcript below:

V: I don't understand, I don't see your views. I wasn't raised the way you were raised.

DS: Well then, if you don't feel—don't come to my games. Don't bring black people, and don't come.

V: Do you know that you have a whole team that's black, that plays for you?

DS: You just, do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have—Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?

This isn’t the first time Mr. Sterling has been accused of racism. In August 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice sued him for housing discrimination in using race as a factor in renting apartments in buildings he owns. Also, according to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times, Clippers executive Elgin Baylor Sued Sterling in 2009, for employment discrimination on the basis of age and race. The lawsuit alleged Sterling told Baylor that he wanted to fill his team with "poor black boys from the South and a white head coach."

Despite his egregious history toward people of color, he was still awarded a lifetime achievement award by the NAACP and was scheduled to receive another one this year.

Yesterday, newly appointed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver imposed a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine, the "maximum amount" allowed per league guidelines on Mr. Sterling.

Under the lifetime ban, Sterling is prohibited from stepping foot inside any Clippers' facility,attending NBA games or practices,taking part in business or personnel decisions, or having a role in league activities. The question remains, is this unconstitutional?

Can a franchise force an owner to pay the bills, yet ban them from making decisions regarding his or her investment? Can they prohibit you from exercising your freedom of speech? A right protected by the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Commissioner said; he will do everything in his power to compel the NBA Board of Governors to "force a sale" of the Clippers. He said "I fully expect" to get the needed three-quarters of the league's owners (at least 23) to back the move.

I doubt the Commissioner can get those votes. I am sure other franchise owners have been advised by their legal staff, to forgo any vote or support of a forced sale.

A vote to force an NBA franchise owner to sell his or her team because of freedom of speech, no matter how disgusting it is, sets a dangerous precedent. It would open all the owners up to a moral clause that can be involved, if anyone disagrees with something said or done.

If Mr. Sterling chooses to sue the NBA, he would undoubtedly argue that a franchise can not infringe upon or limit in anyway, his freedom of speech. He would also question whether the NBA is a private company or a public-private entity. If the NBA has received any public funds, than they can not claim to be governed by a private constitution.

By releasing this recording to the public, Ms. Stiviano, aka Vanessa Maria Perez, aka Monica Gallegos, aka Maria Monica Perez Gallegos, aka Maria Valdez, may have forced Donald Sterling's hand and he may have to sell. He has lost respect throughout the country, lost many of his sponsors and fan base. His franchise sales will be hurt greatly by this scandal, however his prejudice opinions may have unintentionally increased his wealth exponentially.

Donald Sterling purchased the lowly Clippers franchise in 1981 for 12.5 million dollars. He is the longest tenured owner in the NBA. Forbes Magazine reports; the Clippers franchise is worth more than five hundred million dollars. If Mr. Sterling chooses to sell, he would make a considerable profit.

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