The NBA's Slippery Sterling Slope: Haters Target Christian Owner

Loquacious Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, perhaps having visions of Robespierre on the guillotine, started the week warning of a “very slippery slope” should the NBA take Donald Sterling’s Los Angeles Clippers away from him.

By midweek, following the NBA ban on the racist owner, emboldened politicians and pundits wondered aloud what other franchises they might expropriate and what other owners should publicly grovel before them. America does not sit precariously atop the slope. It’s already whizzing down the hill.

That’s the thing about slippery slopes. They’re slippery. The ride happens fast, and the passengers, excited at the top, eventually find themselves at the bottom. Ascending the pit for the high ground doesn’t come easy.

Sports writer Charles Pierce wondered on PBS “what does [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver now do, for example, with the DeVos family in Orlando, which funds anti-gay candidates and anti-gay issue ads all over the country, as well as owning the Orlando Magic? Does he talk to them? This is an entirely new world, and if we’re going to step into it, let’s step all the way into it.”

It’s surely a new world—a Brave New World, and 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, too.

DeVos, the co-founder of Amway, has donated to Focus on the Family, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and other traditionalist groups. He also has generously supported measures aimed at maintaining marriage as a one-man, one-woman institution, calling “respecting marriage” a “sacred issue.” This outrages SportsGrid writer Jake O’Donnell, who wonders whether holding this opinion—codified into law by the majority of states—should be grounds for disqualification in the NBA’s club of owners. “Hey, this isn’t nearly the same thing as Donald Sterling’s recorded hate-rant,” he concedes. “It is, however, food for thought when discussing the NBA as a place for everyone, vis-a-vis the opinions held by the owners.”

“While a racist in their midst deservedly gets the boot,” Craig Crawford writes at the Huffington Post, “the NBA and its players paid no attention when one of its owners gave half a million dollars to an anti-gay group, defended it and, despite a tepid boycott effort, went along his merry way without any consequence.”

Why should there be “any consequence” to holding an opinion with which Crawford, Pierce, and O’Donnell disagree? Why would making the NBA “a place for everyone” require purging it of Rich DeVos? What dystopian novel do we live in when a respected writer suggests that a sports commissioner scold an 88-year-old rags-to-riches Christian billionaire for supporting a position affirmed by 62 percent of voters in his basketball team’s state and 59 percent of the voters in his blue-state birth state?

Fascism, like the devil, masquerades as an angel of light. In the name of combating bigotry, bigots—narrow-minded people who mistake their own opinion’s for God’s—have used the ugly intolerance of Clippers owner Donald Sterling to intolerantly enforce conformity of opinion. Rather than contentment that a man wishing to impose a racial litmus test on who sits courtside beside his courtesan has been kicked out of the league, the victory fuels a strange hunger for the imposition of a political litmus test on who sits in NBA owners’ boxes. Donald Sterling and his enemies share more in common than either care to admit.

Sterling represents ugly thinking. Freedom of expression, respect for privacy, and property rights represent beautiful ideals. It’s a shame that defending the latter gets confused for promoting the former. It’s a shame that justifiable outrage over intolerant speech morphs into outrageous calls for more intolerance.

“In this country, people are allowed to be morons,” Mark Cuban observed before Game 4 of the Mavericks-Spurs series. “They’re allowed to be stupid. They’re allowed to think idiotic thoughts.”

Might confusing “are” for “were” qualify under “idiotic thoughts”? Welcome to the new world.


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