Before I even set my coffee cup on the table, Paddy opened the conversation with, “Let’s talk about that reprehensible bigot, Donald Stirling.”
“Fine,” I said. “But first I want you to clearly understand that I don’t support his views.”
“OK,” Paddy agreed, “but why do you feel you have to make that qualification?”
“Because the overall hypocrisy in the situation has been monumental,” I answered.
“Do tell,” Paddy urged.
“First off, Americans love to wrap themselves in the free speech amendment to their constitution. So, it’s hypocritical in the extreme to say that Stirling doesn’t have the right to express his views, particularly in a private conversation with someone he knows well. The first amendment doesn’t say that speech is free only if it’s politically correct or agrees with majority views. The Stirling example, ugly as it is, manifests the very reason why free speech needs to be entrenched in the constitution,” I argued. “Yet he’s being vilified from all quarters for what he said.”
“Are you saying that he shouldn’t be vilified?” Paddy asked.
“Not at all,” I assured him. “He should be vilified; but for his views, not for expressing them.”
“So you agree with Voltaire’s famous quotation.” Paddy suggested.
“Yes. I don’t agree with what Stirling said, but I’m defending his right to say it,” I paraphrased.
“Voltaire said he’d defend to his death a person’s right to say something,” Paddy pointed out.
“I’m not prepared to go that far for Donald Stirling,” I countered, “but I still think he had the right to express his views. And the hypocrisy didn’t end there.”
“Are you saying the NBA was hypocritical in their decision?” Paddy inquired.
“Not if you consider this case in isolation,” I answered, “because Commissioner Adam Silver made it clear that Stirling was being punished for his views, not for expressing them. When Silver asked Stirling if his comments did express how he felt, apparently Stirling didn’t deny it.”
“So where is the NBA’s hypocrisy?” Paddy pushed.
“This is at least the third time that Stirling’s extremely racist views have been exposed in the public arena,” I pointed out. “ He was previously involved in at least two well-known lawsuits occasioned by his racial bigotry, and neither time did the NBA do anything about it.”
“So what was different this time?” Paddy asked.
“There was going to be a player revolt if they hadn’t acted quickly,” I said.
“Well,” Paddy observed, “some players did demonstrate their displeasure before the commissioner acted.”
“Yes,” I acknowledged, “but again, more hypocrisy.”
“What the hell was hypocritical about some players throwing their warm-up jerseys on the floor and others wearing theirs inside-out?” he exclaimed.
“They should have refused to play,” I said, “not just engage in petty uniform displays.”
“But if they didn’t play,” Paddy protested, “they wouldn’t get paid and might be subject to other disciplinary action.”
“Wherein lies the hypocrisy,” I said.
“Do you think Stirling should be forced to sell the team?” Paddy deftly changed the subject.
“I think it would be best if he did,” I acknowledged. “He’s become too toxic for even his family to be involved in ownership, let alone him.”
“I’m surprised you feel that way,” Paddy said, “you’re such an advocate of property rights”
“But we’re not talking about rights here,” I countered. “Here’s the analogy. The NBA, for all intents and purposes, is a private club; and private clubs tend to deal with privileges, not rights. Private clubs will sometimes expel people who become undesirable. They don’t like to, but they will when forced.”
“I guess that’s right,” Paddy acknowledged, “I read that if seventy-five percent vote him out, the league rules say he has to sell. Do you think Silver can get that much support?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner, suggested that throwing out Stirling could create a pretty slippery slope. I mentioned a moment ago that private clubs will sometimes expel members, but they don’t like to. And the reason they don’t like to is that they don’t want precedents boomeranging on them. They also might have trouble determining who’s pure enough to cast the first stone. There are likely some NBA owners who wouldn’t want the kind of scrutiny that Stirling will subject them to if they give Silver the authority to turf him.”
“Yeah,” Paddy went on, “I already heard that Stirling is prepared to sue the NBA over the forced sale issue.”
“He’s spent his whole life in litigation,” I said, “so he would probably love the fight.”
“I suppose there’s some sportswriter doing a book right now,” Paddy ruminated as he drained his coffee cup and got up to leave.
“If there is” I said, “I hope he calls it The Stirling Silver Affair.”
Paddy didn’t even look back.