By Jason Keidel
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Cynics say we’re just riding the rancor America feels toward Donald Sterling, jumping on a cheap chance to cash in on political correctness. Those are the same folks who give the thumbs down on a YouTube video with 200 million likes. They look for holes in any unanimity, wearing the cool badge of dissenter.
They let the issues bleed together to create subterfuge, to build a semantic firewall around the issue’s essence. Sterling made his wretched remarks during a private chat with a woman who allegedly loved him. We never should have heard them. So what? This isn’t some Orwellian crusade to tap phone calls, nor is Sterling boiling in any legal cauldron. He lost his case in the market of ideas, which is where this matter has always resided.
Then there are the suddenly enlightened, who are aghast that it took this long to spank Sterling for his long-term racist perspective and practices. Well, we all dropped the rock on that, except for a few media members, like Bomani Jones, who framed Sterling in haunting hues for ESPN.com in 2006. Jones’ story, which detailed Sterling’s caveman proclivities as a slumlord, was buried 50 feet below the fold, and deep into the back alleys of America’s consciousness.
But almost by rote people who are punished have usually committed the offense for which they were punished many times. The thief doesn’t get pinched the first time he plucks a wallet, nor is the bigot busted the first time he morphs into a Bull Connor echo chamber. If you think it’s lazy commentary to pound a bad man at his worst moment, then it’s even worse to assert we should have done it sooner.
Besides, it wasn’t just the American media he duped. The Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP was about to give Sterling his second — second! — award. It was clearly payoff loot, a way for Sterling to buy a clearer conscience. UCLA also took millions from Sterling. Both institutions were far closer physically and socially than the rest of us, so this “gotcha” approach to slapping the press around is rather myopic and useless.
And, in a larger sense, it’s refreshing to see such a politically-fractured nation simpatico on something, even if the source is so troubling. Americans really agree on nothing, from what we should eat to whom we should fight. In an odd way, Sterling was a unifying force, a sick person whose toxic views have bonded us, even if just for a few days. Sometimes piling on isn’t a penalty.
Speaking of easy pickings, Adam Silver deserves a high-five. Thrown onto the third rail of American discourse just a few months into his gig as NBA commissioner, Silver took the exact tone, tenor and action we wanted, banning Sterling from the league for life and coaxing the other 29 owners into a vote to force Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers. In a totally opposing and refreshing way, Silver went from wide-eyed newbie to avatar of justice. There’s a new sheriff in town, and an old, angry man on his way out.
Forgive us for applauding.
Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonKeidel.
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