In our zeal to appear righteous or courageous or free of bigotry, a ratings-pleasing mob hell-bent on revenge turned Donald T. Sterling -- a victim of privacy invasion and white supremacy -- from villain to martyr.
In a society filled with impurities, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers committed the crime of speaking impure thoughts in the privacy of a duplex he apparently provided for his mistress. And now an angry, agenda-fueled mob provoked NBA commissioner Adam Silver into handing Sterling a basketball death sentence.
On Tuesday, just 72 hours after the release of Sterling's Pillow Talk Tapes by TMZ, a rookie commissioner imposed a lifetime ban on a flawed man whose rights were violated.
Mob rule is dangerous. Well-intentioned, TV-baited mobs are the most dangerous. They do not consider the consequences of their actions, and they're prone to take a simple-minded, instant-gratification approach to justice rather than a strategic one.
Removing Donald Sterling from the NBA solves nothing. It sets a precedent that will likely boomerang and harm the black players and coaches who are shocked and outraged that an 80-year-old man with a documented history of bigoted actions also has bigoted private thoughts.
Let's be careful here. From the owner's box to the locker room, professional sports are overrun with wealthy men in complicated, volatile sexual relationships. If TMZ plans to make "pillow talk" public and the standard is set that "pillow talk" is actionable, it won't be long before a parade of athletes joins Sterling on Ignorance Island.
A right to privacy is at the very foundation of American freedoms. It's a core value. It's a mistake to undermine a core value because we don't like the way a billionaire exercises it. What happens when a disgruntled lover gives TMZ a tape of a millionaire athlete expressing a homophobic or anti-Semitic or anti-white perspective?
Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who called for Clippers fans to boycott Game 5, seems quite vulnerable to mob rule. Jackson is super-religious. He's previously been extorted by a stripper he kept as a mistress. And some of the LGBT community views Jackson as homophobic.
The conversation revolving around Donald Sterling is unsophisticated, and so was the heavy-handed punishment. They're driven by emotion rather than logic. It does not serve the greater good of the offended black community. Sterling is a scapegoat. He is an easy target, a decoy so that we do not address the elephant he walked into his mistress' bedroom.
"We don't evaluate what's right and wrong," Sterling is heard telling his black-and-Latina mistress when she asked if it was right to treat black as less than white. "We live in a society. We live in a culture. We have to live within that culture."
Sterling adheres to a pervasive culture, the hierarchy established by global white supremacy.
"I don't want to change the culture because I can't," Sterling says. "It's too big."
This was Sterling's one moment of clarity. The culture of white supremacy created Donald Sterling. He did not create the culture.