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Does the penalty fit Sterling’s crime? - The Galveston County Daily News: Guest Columns

December 8, 2016

Does the penalty fit Sterling’s crime?

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Posted: Saturday, May 3, 2014 12:00 am

It has been said that it takes an entire generation to earn a reputation, yet it takes 30 seconds to lose one.

The embattled NBA owner of the LA Clippers, Donald Sterling, is up to his eyeballs in controversy stemming from some comments he made to his ex-girlfriend in a taped private conversation in September of 2013.

It is interesting to see our society grapple with this explosive issue. 

Do individuals have any privacy concerning their own thoughts?

Does society have the right to take away your worldly possessions and livelihood if your views or preferences are against a certain race of people? 

The NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, in an impulsive reaction, fined Sterling $2.5 million and banned him from the league for life.

Was that the only option? 

I think there are some people who would like to impose the death penalty.

Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was the only level-headed person to comment:

“If it’s about racism and we’re ready to kick people out of the league, OK. Then what about homophobia? What about somebody who doesn’t like a particular religion? What about somebody who’s anti-Semitic? What about a xenophobe? In this country, people are allowed to be morons.”

Mr. Sterling pledged $3 million for kidney research to UCLA, and because of his distasteful comments the university has decided to return the money.

Everyone can agree that we all need to love one another, yet there can be no law or regulation that can change a person’s heart.

We live in free and open society that allows contrarian speech.

Once again, political correctness is shaping norms and customs that include penalties for failing to adhere to those set standards.

The questions that each of us should ask ourselves are, “Does the penalty truly fit the crime?” and “Are there times in our lives when we are in an emotionally strained situation and make impulsive comments that may not represent our core values?”

If so, should those acts determine whether we can live and work in our communities?

What are the rules of privacy for individuals to be able to exercise their own free thoughts regardless of their content?

Whatever happened to the concept of forgiveness, grace and restitution?

Let’s subscribe to the words of the famous civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” 

Granted Mr. Sterling is a flawed and jagged man, yet his case set a precedent for others who may find themselves in a similar situation. 

In the future, could business owners lose their operation because of a racial slur?

Punishment should be rendered on the physical act, not on the thoughts and words of the potential offender. 

I look forward to a time when our culture can be tolerant of all people, even those people who don’t share our views, and that we can influence those individuals not by destroying them but by showing them, through our actions, a better way.