Freedom comes with a price and Freedom of speech costs too much as the latest over saturated news of (NBA) L.A. Clippers owner can attest to. There have been numerous debates on the issue of race and his remarks display his detest for Black people. But what has been most debated on social media sites is the fact that here in America we live by the First Amendment right, freedom of speech, so why was Donald Sterling penalized for something he said?
For those who of you that question the Sterling penalty, it may come as a surprise to learn that freedom is not free, as American military Troops pay the price daily; likewise, neither is freedom of speech. If one is a public figure representing a public franchise they cannot expect to say what they feel. Americans are at liberty to feel what they feel, but to express those feelings in public, and subsequently have those beliefs recorded, they should expect to pay a price.
If history teaches anything, the recent case of Paula Dean should be an indication of the price of free speech. Dean paid dearly for her racial epithets heard on tape, and her empire suffered a great financial loss as investors and sponsors retreated. This week, Sterling was dealt the same blow when his racial beliefs were recorded and played for the entire world to hear. Franchises do not want their brand tarnished by the ignorant beliefs of someone representing them. Therefore, in order to protect their image they have to make the business decision to disassociate their brand from the offender and affix a penalty.
While freedom of speech comes at a price, it is still free, as Sterling was not thrown in jail for his antics, neither was Dean. The price does not serve as an attempt to change anyone’s beliefs, but to send the message racism will not be tolerated. In this year of 2014 it is disappointing to say the least, that discrimination due to the color of ones’ skin or the idea of segregation still permeates the minds and influence the actions of American’s today.
The recourse taken by the NBA commissioner proved they do not support the views of Sterling and therefore cannot allow him to operate as he had in the past now that his beliefs were made public . Is Sterling alone in his beliefs, sadly no, however he was caught. He is in a position where he can impact the lives of many Black athletes so if he believes Blacks are in some way inferior and not equal he can not be expected to judge and manage his predominantly Black team fairly.
America is the land of free speech, but if you are a public figure, you have to decide how much you are willing to pay to publicly voice what you believe; especially if those beliefs are racist, derogatory, sexist, or promote hatred of others. There is a moral responsibility that over shadows any personal belief when you are a public figure and represent a public company. Sometimes it pays to have a filter and a level of decorum if you are not afforded the luxury of having an open mind and common sense. Freedom of speech exists, but it can be expensive.
Opinion By Debra Pittman