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NBA ruling like vigilante justice

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Donald Sterling is a moron.

He should not be a victim of society’s politically correct “thought police,” however.

Racist comments attributed to the L.A. Clippers’ owner are callous, abhorrent, myopic — pick your word.

Cries by many, though, to kick the owner out of the NBA because of a surreptitiously recorded private conversation went too far in enforcing vigilante justice.

Let the marketplace work instead. Bending the rules in a fit of outrage is never the answer.

That is exactly what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did.

 The NBA’s rush to judgment in banning Sterling for life and essentially strong-arming the sale of the franchise is troubling. That Silver occupies the perceived moral high ground on this issue doesn’t make it right.

“In this country, people are allowed to be morons,” Dallas Mavericks owner and Indiana University graduate Mark Cuban said before the ruling. “They’re allowed to be stupid. They’re allowed to think idiotic thoughts.”

That’s right. Even morons are entitled to a fair shake, whether they deserve it or not.

This smacks more of vigilante justice, if that term even makes sense.

Sure, the 81-year-old Sterling has long been one of league’s least endearing owners. Few would be sorry to see him go.

The circumstances of his departure are most bizarre. The married owner’s conversation with his longtime girlfriend was surreptitiously recorded and leaked to gossip site TMZ. In that audio recording, someone sounding like Sterling condemns his friend’s association with Magic Johnson, a black man.

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” Sterling asks the woman on the tape.

That’s it. That’s the evidence. No dead body in a trunk. No cocaine rolled up in a dollar bill. Just a private conversation that was secretly recorded and released for profit.

The outrage that followed was disproportionate as NBA executives, players and even President Barack Obama rushed to condemn.

In three days, Sterling was gone, with Silver leading the moral crusade.

Let’s get this straight. Sterling is a schmuck, an arrogant jerk and a dozen other things that generally describe old men behaving like little boys. Until now, that is a most endearing quality for most owners of professional sports teams.

But it also is a fact that he is not liked and is, frankly, thoroughly unlikable. His exploits with women are especially disturbing.

“He’s obviously racist; he’s obviously bigoted. And in this day and age when you’re in the public eye, you’ve got to be damn careful — if that’s your position and that’s unfortunately where you’re at — you better be damn careful what you say, even in the privacy of your own home,” said Cuban, who softened his cry after Silver’s decision.

“But regardless of your background, regardless of the history they have, if we’re taking something somebody said in their home and we’re trying to turn it into something that leads to you being forced to divest property in any way, shape or form, that’s not the United States of America. I don’t want to be part of that.”

Amen to that. I don’t know Sterling and do not care who owns the Clippers.

There is something else at play here that is disturbing. That is a rush to judgment that is wholly out of proportion to the “crime.”

I myself may be guilty of sometimes pushing the envelope on political correctness. For too long, bullying, racism and sexism have been part of society.

Do we reach a point, though, where our collective zeal to preach tolerance leads us to be intolerant of those with whom we disagree? I wonder if this is that moment.

All I know is that a business owner said something in private that was in no way a threat or criminal in tone. It was secretly tape-recorded and sold for profit. Now, three days later, he has been judged, and a de facto sentence was handed down.

Donald Sterling, you are a moron. At this point, though, I am not sure the politically correct system that rushed to an extreme judgment is much better.

Bob Johnson is a correspondent for the Daily Journal. His columns appear Tuesdays and Fridays. Send comments to

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