Bill Prachar, firstname.lastname@example.org
The biggest news in sports in the last few weeks had
nothing to do with who won or lost a game. It predictably
made all the talk shows and went national across every
major news outlet — news programs, papers, and (of course)
the Internet. If you missed it, I’m talking about the secretly
(and illegally, in California) recorded telephone argument
between, Donald Sterling, the aging owner of the NBA Los
Angeles Clippers, and his much younger “mistress.”
It’s the stuff of TV soap operas. This recording revealed a
man engaged in an angry, racist rant, during which he asked
his girlfriend not to “bring blacks to games.” Within a few
days after admitting he made the comments, he found himself
banned for life from the NBA, excluding him from any future
involvement with the Clippers. He’s not even allowed to
attend the games.
The message of this column is not to judge this owner, or to
celebrate his downfall — I leave that to the court of public
opinion and the courts of law. Rather, it is to remind all of us
(including me) that just because our thoughts and “speech” may
be legally protected, they are not protected from public opinion
and the consequences that follow. In other words, while we may
have the “right” to say whatever we want, we need to be sure
that it is “right” to say it.
I’m not suggesting that we must always be “politically correct.” The
freedom to debate issues is what makes Canada and the U.S. great.
I worry that the feeling that we always need to be “PC” sometimes
chills legitimate debate. It appears Mr. Sterling’s conversation broke
no laws, and he is running his team in a non-discriminatory manner.
However, his rants crossed a line way beyond PC. His comments were
hurtful, inappropriate, and out of step with the values of the league,
its fans, and society in general.
North America is not the same place today as it was in 1950 when Earl
Lloyd became the first Black player in the NBA. Attitudes have changed,
slowly, but they have changed. As the Sterling episode shows, there is
no longer any legitimate debate over the right of all people, regardless
of background, to participate freely in any activity in society. Those
who hold racist views, in sports, business or any other aspect of society
(and we all know there are still many) are simply out of step with the
Like the NBA, WM is a multiracial, multi-cultural organization. Like the
NBA, we choose our teammates on the basis of their skills, not color,
religion, ethnic background, gender or sexual preference. We need to
make sure that our attitudes, actions and our speech support the rich
diversity that helps make WM successful.