I, like most, have loosely followed the story regarding comments the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, Donald Sterling, made while talking to friends. For me this whole fiasco is truly troubling. I must start by saying this man’s mindset and beliefs sicken me. He is clearly a bigot stuck in the 1930s and 1940s, when it was acceptable to believe that being white gave you license to look down on those who were not.
However, as disgusting and hateful as his comments were, they are apparently his true feelings, and this is where my problem begins. The First Amendment says we have the freedom to speak our minds. This applies to all of us, whether your beliefs are sensible and fair to all or filled with hate and bigotry. Freedom of speech not only means you are free to speak your mind, but it also implies that others you may disagree with are also free to speak their minds. It is hard at times to remember this, especially when one hears words spoken that are so vile and filled with contempt that you question the sanity of the person who spoke them.
But I am reminded of this saying: Although I disagree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it.
That is where my uncertainty regarding the reaction to his comments lies. Is it fair to fine a man millions of dollars and deny him access to buildings where the team he owns is playing because he verbalized his feelings? As repulsive as they may be to others, does he not also have the right of free speech among his friends?
In a society of free speech, you have to be tough and ready to hear things that hurt and anger you. It’s a difficult situation that requires some thought, not the knee-jerk reactions that have occurred to punish this man simply to satisfy those angered by his hateful comments.