Freedom of Speech Should Not Necessarily Be Free

Blog post by: Marvin Adams (Pictured here) a parishioner of St. Anthony’s Parish in Washington DC. Marvin’s views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.


The National Basketball Association’s Commissioner, Adam Silver, came down rather quickly, with a ruling in response to the diatribe of Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Sterling, during the course of a phone conversation with his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, often stated his desire for his girlfriend to cease and desist with engaging publicly with African-Americans. He went so far as to tell her he did not want her to bring any of “them” to the Clipper’s games. As was expected, this story garnered the attention of more than a few media outlets, people in and out of sports, as well as others from around the globe.

Commissioner Silver decided to levy these sanctions against Sterling: 1) ban him for life; 2) fine him 2.5 million and 3) accept the will of the fellow 29 owners. It would take three quarters of the owners to vote to force Sterling to sell the Clippers. While listening to Silver’s press conference, my first thought was “Hold up; wait a minute!” Isn’t this is the same commissioner, who floated the idea of enacting a minimum age requirement for all student-athletes wishing to join the NBA? Not lost on me was the fact that football and basketball are the only sports which have age stipulations. Other sports such as tennis, golf, soccer, hockey and NASCAR, do not have similar requirements. There are many and varied opinions as to why professional football and basketball seem to embrace this requisite. The fact that both football and basketball have a significant amount of African-Americans among their rosters led some to believe that the actions of the NFL and the proposed action by the NBA was/is race related.

While I wholeheartedly agree that bold and swift action was necessary by the commissioner, I must ask a few important questions, intermixed with a few observations. First and foremost, Sterling is not the first, nor, unfortunately, will he be the last to display a wanton disregard toward others. In our society of today, a climate exists which perpetuates the kind of behavior which was caught on tape. The key here is it was caught on tape! I can only imagine what others have said, with respect to race that has not been captured on tape, and subsequently made public. I can’t help but recall when I was a junior in high school; I ran and successfully defeated three challengers to be the president of our class. Conventional wisdom led others to believe I could not be elected due to the fact that I was running against the three most popular guys in our class. What seemingly complicated matters more so was the fact that only one white individual was running, while my other two opponents were African-American. Long story short, I had to have received a significant amount of the white vote to counter the splintering of the African-American vote. This fact was not lost upon the only white candidate in the race. He stated, when he thought he was in a safe environment, that he had never lost an election and this one hurts even more because he lost to an N…… Rainwater (my opponent) did not realize that he made this statement in front of two of my best friends, who just happened to be white. And one of whom shared altar server duties with me on numerous occasions.

Let me state emphatically that I am not of the school of thought, like some members of the United States Supreme Court, politicians and others that “Racism is over; let’s stop talking about it!” The truth of the matter is, as much as we would like to delude ourselves into believing that we, as a nation, have morphed into a post-racial society, it could not be any farther from the truth. Some cling to that belief because we elected and reelected the nation’s first African-American president, Barack Hussein Obama. But with regard to racism, wishing it so, and saying it so, does not make it so.

Sterling, who is 80 years old, reminds me of the type of individual who have, throughout American history, not practiced what they preached. Thomas Jefferson, when confronted with the option of aiding Haiti in their effort to gain independence, did everything within his and our country’s might to undermine their struggle. This is especially noteworthy and hypocritical, especially because Haiti sent some of their countrymen to fight for our cause of liberty during the American Revolution. Simultaneously, Jefferson was a slave owner, who took “liberties” with a few of his slaves. His dalliances with a young slave girl, Sally Hemings gave them eight children. Similarly, Strom Thurmond, R-SC, the late staunch segregationist, was carrying on an illicit affair with a young black teenager. This tryst(s) resulted in an offspring, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, being born. Sterling, told the entire world, similar to the aforementioned, that it is alright to engage those with whom you disdain behind closed doors. It just can’t be done publicly.

For everyone calling for Sterling’s scalp, let me mention that if you wish to throw the book at him, why stop with just him. Not too terribly long ago, Howard Cosell, Marge Schott and George Steinbrenner were all banned or sanctioned because of their idiotic and insensitive comments about a group and/or individual(s) of a different race or religion. But as I alluded, those were the ones who were caught. I surmise that a lot worse have been said and will continue to be said, under the guise of privacy. During the most recent presidential election, Willard Mitt Romney gave us one for the ages with his 47% quote. And lest we forget, how about the vile and vitriolic comments leveled at the POTUS. I think it was either Martin Luther King, Jr. or perhaps Barry Goldwater who stated “you can’t legislate morality.” While I agree with the premise, I will state, emphatically, we must try, because nothing else seems to be working.

That said; let’s not make a scapegoat out of Sterling. Starting today, let’s tape everyone, 24/7, and see how many of us could stand up to the increased scrutiny. I respectfully suggest that we should begin in the highest reaches of government, down to the lowest hallows in Appalachia. Anyone caught similar to Sterling would be afforded the same type of response. This, I maintain, is one of a very many methods we have at our disposal to begin to correct this abhorrent type of behavior. I can’t think of a better deterrent in a capitalistic society than that of losing one’s livelihood and being fined. Absent that, let’s quit talking about racism, because until we fully embrace the fact, to paraphrase NASA, “America, we have a problem” and deal with it accordingly, it matters not. Absent that, we will continue to delude ourselves into believing “That racism is over; let’s stop talking about it!” That is, until the next Sterling comes along to remind us once again, that freedom of speech should not necessarily be free.

Published in: on May 1, 2014 at 10:43 am  Leave a Comment  

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