Issues Beyond Defense

NBA team owner Donald Sterling and Nevada rancher Clive Bundy have something in common — views on race that have no defense.A leaked audiotape threatens to turn LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling into a pariah. Actually, his long-held views on blacks are what paved his path to becoming a pariah. 

As offensive as the taped remarks are — and they could be offensive enough to force Sterling out of the NBA — the real offense lies in the viewpoint and attitude that prompted Sterling to make the racist comments.

Former Clippers player Baron Davis tweeted that the views expressed on tape by Sterling are no different than the views he displayed when Baron was on the team. 

It seems like an odd choice for Sterling to own a professional basketball team made up of mostly African-American players. If he doesn't like blacks and doesn't want them to come to Clippers games, then why own the team?

As a lot of prominent people have discovered — remember presidential candidate Mitt Romney writing off 47 percent of the electorate at a fundraiser for the elite 1 percent? — what you really feel will sooner or later surface in what you actually say.

Deeply held feelings are not something you can manage. They control you. 

Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who was suddenly thrust into the sunshine of media coverage for refusing to pay grazing fees, saw no reason to trim his views about blacks or even slavery, much to the embarrassment of conservative talk show hosts who initially embraced him as a man fighting The Man.

The lesson here is that sometimes you can't manage a point of view that is offensive and off-putting. No amount of spin or circumlocution will explain it away. No apology will wash it away. People may forgive, but they won't forget. If you believe what you believe, you need to live with it — and its consequences.

Sterling may be led out of Clipperdom like a tar baby on a rail, a fitting mode of departure. Bundy will wind up being forced to pay up or serve time alongside some of the men he degraded in his comments. He might even be able to compare the vicissitudes of jail with those he ascribed to slavery. 

There won't be a lot of volunteers to defender Sterling and Bundy because, in the end, there is no defense. Their views are their views. They need to live with them, the rest of us don't.