The situation with Donald Sterling and the Clippers is, in a microcosm, a problem the whole world faces-- bad leaders running companies with innocent employees at risk or worst, put in a moral bind.
I started out this article with a title, "There is Only One Response the NBA Can Have to Clippers Owner Donald Sterling." But once I started researching the story, I realized, there's not much the NBA can do, at least not yet. Here's where the story led me:
Word is out
that Donald Sterling is even worse that he initially appeared. The full audio of the recording of Sterling actually includes more despicable language, referring to black and white Jews.
This episode of racist hatred was not Sterling's first
. It should be the last. The NBA cannot allow this kind of behavior by an owner to stand. If they don't have a morals clause for owners, they should. The NBA has a morals contract for every player, according to 2004 NY Times
"Every N.B.A. contract includes a morals clause, which gives teams the right to terminate a player's contract under certain circumstances.
One of the provisions states that a team may terminate a contract if a player "at any time fails, refuses or neglects to conform his personal conduct to standards of good citizenship, good moral character (defined here to mean not engaging in acts of moral turpitude, whether or not such acts would constitute a crime), and good sportsmanship, to keep himself in first-class physical condition, or to obey the team's training rules."
That contract is for players. It seems only just that there should also be morals contracts for owners. But that is highly unlikely.
We have a situation where an organization, the NBA, which is where the buck stops for a major sport that influences millions of children and adults has, so far, done nothing substantive in response to Sterlings despicable... words... mind... self.
And it is actually worse. I'm not even saying that the players on the Clippers SHOULD strike. It's not their fault that the owner of the team is a racist, bigoted ass. But they can't strike. Why? because their union negotiated what has become a typical union deal that screws workers, according to university of Miami professor Alicia Jessop, writing for the Huffingtonpost
Along with calling for the NBA to remove Sterling as an owner, others have called for the Clippers to refuse to play. While Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has indicated that the team has decided not to do this, the question remains whether the team legally could. Arguably, sitting out from a game would amount to a strike by Clippers players, as they would be boycotting their working conditions under Sterling. However, under the collective bargaining agreement the National Basketball Players Association signed with the NBA in 2011, strikes during the term of the collective bargaining agreement are not allowed. Thus, sitting out a game would violate the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and could open up the players to a labor law claim and also a breach of contract lawsuit.
The huffingtonpost article also points out there may be a way around the collective bargaining claim, reporting, "That is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII grants employees the right to sit out from work to boycott an employer's discriminatory practices. Arguably, Sterling's conduct and a subsequent refusal to work by Clippers players would fall within the realm of Title VII."
But Sterling could still sue the players based on the collective bargaining agreement.
Clearly, when a racist bigot is a billionaire, or worth hundreds of millions, justice does not always prevail.
The huffpost article suggests that the NBA could suspend the Clippers, but Sterling could sue.
The Huffpo article suggests the best response would be for fans to boycott the Clippers' games. But that punishes the fans. The article also suggests,
"the Clippers' corporate sponsors should consider pulling their money from the team after reviewing their contracts, which likely include a morals clause. Finally, the team's television broadcasting networks should consider similar action."
Boycotts can work. Expecting the broadcast networks to do anything is probably unrealistic. But telling advertisers they shouldn't be supporting the Clippers-- owned by Sterling-- that's pretty straightforward. Advertisers respond to consumers. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Clippers fans. If just a small percentage of them tell advertisers that t hey should not sponsor the games while Sterling is the owner, that could have a major effect. if fans attend the games with signs telling Sterling what a despicable person he is, that could work.
When a bad boss does his bad stuff, it's not the workers' fault and they shouldn't be punished. What we are seeing with Sterling and the Clippers is one of the biggest problems the whole world faces-- bad corporate owners and leaders, doing bad things, with little the world can do to make things right.
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