Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Are there other differences between the Brendan Eich and Donald Sterling controversies? And what about Shaq?

The Brendan Eich and Donald Sterling situations have been compared, and contrasted. In a post that I wrote on Monday, before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life, I noted that Sterling, unlike Eich, was the owner of the organization from which he was removed.

There are other differences.

In his radio show this morning, Colin Cowherd noted that sports team owners are not merely private businesspeople, but also have a public responsibility. Governments provide sports teams with a myriad of economic benefits. For example, when protesters show up at Clipper games, the city of Los Angeles - not the Clippers - pays for police protection. Although Cowherd didn't mention Mozilla, the Mozilla Foundation has no such responsibility to the locality in which it does business. The city doesn't sponsor a parade or anything like that for Mozilla.

And there are also differences in what the two individuals did. Andrew Sullivan explained the difference as follows:

If Brendan Eich had made comments telling his friends to keep away from faggots, if he’d used any such terminology or had ever been shown to have discriminated against gays in the workplace or in his daily interactions, then his case would be very similar. But no such comments are in the public or private record, and there’s zero evidence that he ever acted in the workplace to harm gay employees. Au contraire, which is why gay Mozilla employees were divided about his ouster, with some supporting him. Sterling’s remarks, in contrast, reveal him to be a crude, foul bigot – which is why there is no division at all among African-Americans in the league – or beyond the league – about his fate.

In addition, some (not including myself) believe that Sterling is being forced out, while Eich left of his own volition. (I believe differently.)

At the end of the day, however, Eich is no longer with Mozilla, and Sterling (after days, months, or years) will no longer own the Clippers.

But what precedent has been set? Will offensive speech always result in a lifetime ban?

Until a few days ago, most of us had never heard of Jahmel Binion. Most of us had heard of Shaquille O'Neal, who coincidentally used to play basketball in Los Angeles. (Not for the Clippers. There is another professional basketball team in the area called the Los Angeles Lakers. Shaq played for this team.) But Shaq brought Binion to the world's attention:

Binion has been made fun of his entire life for having hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, a rare disorder characterized by a reduced ability to sweat, sparse hair growth, missing teeth and facial deformities.

“I’ve been laughed at, pointed at and stared at,” said Binion.

But this was taken to the next level when celebrities, like O’Neal, began making fun of him. Binion took a selfie and posted it to social media. O’Neal took a picture of himself, making a face, and posted a side-by-side comparison of himself and Binion with the words, “Smile today.”

How did Binion feel as Shaq and others made fun of him and his disability? Well, he felt like a black basketball player would feel if he knew his team's owner had a hang-up about seeing certain things in public.

Eventually Shaq apologized...eventually.

Binion said he received a phone call from O’Neal and [athlete Trey] Burke on Tuesday, both personally apologizing for the incident. On his Twitter account, O’Neal wrote, “Made a new friend today when I called and apologized to Jahmel Binion. Great dude.”

But Binion said the apology came several days after the celebrities were criticized nationally by several media sources.

“When they said sorry, I felt like they were saying it to get the pressure off of them for being considered ‘bad people,’” said Binion.

But Shaq apologized, so all is well, isn't it? But remember that Donald Sterling apologized also.

“Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings,” the statement says. “It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life. He feels terrible that such sentiments are being attributed to him and apologizes to anyone who might have been hurt by them. He is also upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him about Earvin Johnson. He has long considered Magic a friend and has only the utmost respect and admiration for him — both in terms of who he is and what he has achieved. We are investigating this matter.”

But Shaq meant it; Sterling didn't. Right?

Does it matter?

Should Shaquille O'Neal be banned from NBA facilities for life?
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