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Donald Sterling: Sympathy for a Devil

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs - Game One

As Doug has already noted, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver has banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life, fined him the maximum amount permissible under league bylaws, and plans to initiate proceedings for the other owners to force Sterling to sell the team. They will almost certainly accede to that wish and in rapid fashion.

Given the vileness of Sterling’s remarks and the universal condemnation they have received, one naturally treads gingerly in arguing that any amount of punishment is too severe. Indeed, given the business interests of the Association, I’m not sure they had any choice but to act swiftly and harshly. But I’m nonetheless conflicted here.

On the one hand, It’s hard to feel sorry for Sterling. As Bomani Jones has eloquently pointed out, the rant that caused the backlash is among the least of Sterling’s offenses. Sterling seems to be a genuinely despicable human being who has caused a lot of real human suffering over the years. It’s shocking in hindsight that the NBA didn’t disassociate itself from him long ago.

Nor is there much question that Silver has plenary authority to take the action that he did today or that the other owners have the right to force Sterling to sell the team at market value. ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson lays out that case effectively.

Even so, I’m more than a little queasy about such drastic punishment being levied for the offense of saying offensive things in a private conversation. NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,

Racists deserve to be paraded around the modern town square of the television screen so that the rest of us who believe in the American ideals of equality can be reminded that racism is still a disease that we haven’t yet licked.

What bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair isn’t just his racism. I’m bothered that everyone acts as if it’s a huge surprise. Now there’s all this dramatic and very public rending of clothing about whether they should keep their expensive Clippers season tickets. Really? All this other stuff I listed above has been going on for years and this ridiculous conversation with his girlfriend is what puts you over the edge? That’s the smoking gun?

He was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years, preventing them from getting housing. It was public record. We did nothing. Suddenly he says he doesn’t want his girlfriend posing with Magic Johnson on Instagram and we bring out the torches and rope. Shouldn’t we have all called for his resignation back then?

Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy in such an un-American way? Although the impact is similar to Mitt Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that Romney was giving a public speech. The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime. We didn’t steal the cake but we’re all gorging ourselves on it.

Make no mistake: Donald Sterling is the villain of this story. But he’s just a handmaiden to the bigger evil. In our quest for social justice, we shouldn’t lose sight that racism is the true enemy. He’s just another jerk with more money than brains.

So, if we’re all going to be outraged, let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident. Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played.

Similarly, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who has tweeted his support for Silver’s sanctions against Sterling, is concerned about the implications of stripping his ownership:

“I think there’s a [league] constitution for a reason, right?” Cuban said before Game 4 of the Mavericks-San Antonio Spurs series. “Because this is a very slippery slope. What Donald said was wrong. It was abhorrent. There’s no place for racism in the NBA, any business I’m associated with, and I don’t want to be associated with people who have that position.

“But at the same time, that’s a decision I make. I think you’ve got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do. It’s a very, very slippery slope.

“Again, there’s no excuse for his positions. There’s no excuse for what he said. There’s no excuse for anybody to support racism. There’s no place for it in our league, but there’s a very, very, very slippery slope.”

But I’m not sure why it’s okay to use an illegally recorded private conversation as a basis for banning Sterling from even attending the games of the team he owns, fining him more money than most Americans will earn in a lifetime, but not to force him to sell the franchise at a whopping profit. Especially since Sterling wasn’t caught cheating, gambling, or otherwise violating NBA rules.

In the Q&A at the press conference where he announced the sanctions, Silver was adamant that punishment was for the remarks released over the weekend alone, not Sterling’s cumulative record. Asked about the issue that Abdul-Jabbar, Cuban, and myself have raised—the private nature of the conversation—Silver simply noted that “it’s public now.” But that’s a slippery slope, indeed.

Ultimately, Sterling is a sleazy character and the NBA has to disassociate itself from him. And he’ll make hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from the sale of the team. And who wouldn’t love the karma of Earvin “Magic” Johnson, a central figure in the conversation that was Sterling’s undoing, emerging as the new owner of the team?

Still, I’m uneasy about a world in which a private conversation, illegally recorded, can be used in this fashion.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. beth says:

    I’m not crazy about the private conversation part either but I would bet there’s something in his contract with the NBA about morals or not embarrassing the league that they can use to justify his punishment even for private behavior.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. Mikey says:

    Was it illegally recorded? I thought (although I could be mistaken) that he had asked her to record conversations because he was having issues with memory.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  3. James Joyner says:

    @beth: Oh, I don’t think there’s any doubt that they can do this for pretty much any reason they want. The commissioner has near-dictatorial powers to fine for conduct he deems detrimental and the owners can strip other owners for damn near anything, per Munson’s piece linked above. Again: I think the outcome is both just given the totality of Sterling’s life and legal within the NBA framework; my concern is that punishing someone solely for private remarks that have been illegally recorded is bad for society.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    He’s not being convicted of a crime in a court of law. The NBA is in the entertainment business, they’ve got an image to maintain, and, legal or illegal, the tape harms the image. They’re doing damage control. What else could they do?

    Assuming the mistress is the source of the tape, Mr. Sterling presumably has a cause for legal action against her. The likelihood of his recovering anything meaningful probably approaches zero.

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  5. michael reynolds says:

    I had the same reaction, James. Isn’t someone going to point out that this was a serious violation of his privacy?

    Now that it’s out there, I don’t see that the NBA had a choice, purely as a matter of business. But queasy is right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

  6. C. Clavin says:

    Sure…as a white guy…it’s a slippery slope. Mark Cuban is right…everyone has a right to be a moron.
    But imagine you were a player on is team or on a team playing against him. I’d want his head.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  7. James Joyner says:

    @Dave Schuler @michael reynolds@C. Clavin: That’s why I’m torn. As Silver said, this is public now and the NBA has to deal with the real world repercussions of that. I’m just leery of holding people accountable for the worst thing they’ve ever said behind closed doors to someone they trust.

    @Mikey: I hadn’t heard that. Even if true, it’s a betrayal. He would have had every reason to think that the conversation was for their ears only.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  8. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner:

    Even if true, it’s a betrayal.

    Indeed it is. It looks a lot like a setup, to me at least. She had to know he was like this.

    This, like the Brandon Eich incident, is a lot more about the damage done to the organization’s image than anything else. Sterling was allowed all sorts of despicable conduct before this happened.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  9. Donald Sensing says:

    The firing of Eich and the punishment of Sterling could be seen as religious rituals:

    “Instead of finding one’s salvation on the path of traditional religions, liberals look for salvation in a set of right opinions–on race, the environment, income distribution, gender, or whatever.”

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 28

  10. Pete S says:

    Legal question, as I am not a lawyer – if Sterling sues the league, can the league introduce the tape as part of its defense? They might be in a shaky position if it is illegal. If as expected the owners vote for the forced sale could he claim that the league’s actions – publicly announcing that he has to sell the team – have actually lowered the selling price and caused him damage? It seems possible that any bids would be lowballed a bit as the league would be requiring the sale.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    @James Joyner:

    Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  12. @Pete S:

    My understanding is that the NBA’s governing documents provide that the decisions of the Commissioner in matters like this, and the proceedings of the Owner’s group when they move to force a sale, would be treated under the law similar to an award in an arbitration proceeding.

    If that is the case, then Sterling would have little recourse in Court to challenge the basis for the decision. He could always try to file a suit to have the “arbitration” decision voided, but that’s incredibly difficult to do under the law

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  13. Here is the relevant paragraph from the Lester Munson piece that James linked in the main post:

    Q: Sterling is notoriously litigious. Can he go to court to stop Silver from punishing him?

    A: Not effectively. When Silver issues his punishment to Sterling, the decision is final. The constitution provides in Paragraph 24(m) that a commissioner’s decision shall be “final, binding, and conclusive” and shall be as final as an award of arbitration. It is almost impossible to find a judge in the United States judicial system who would set aside an award of arbitration. Sterling can file a lawsuit, but he would face a humiliating defeat early in the process. There is no antitrust theory or principle that would help him against Silver and the NBA. He could claim an antitrust violation, for example, if he were trying to move his team to a different market. But under the terms of the NBA constitution, he has no chance to succeed in litigation over punishment.

    That would appear to be that.

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  14. JR says:

    The NBA needs to protect its brand. The legal issues are moot in making this decision. Sterling is bad for business and this was an easy decision for the new commissioner to make. If the NBA did not send a strong message, they very likely would be looking at an NBA players strike during the playoffs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  15. Tillman says:

    So, I can’t record conversations I have with my friends, much less any girlfriends, because they are private? That activity is illegal?

    It is/should be illegal if the NSA does it without my knowledge, as they were doing. It’s not illegal if someone is in my vicinity with a tape recorder, because then presumably I can see what they’re doing and modify my behavior accordingly.

    @michael reynolds:

    Isn’t someone going to point out that this was a serious violation of his privacy?

    Of course it is. But I don’t believe stuff like this should be illegal. It’s the sort of law you could never enforce. In the same vein, it would be illegal to tape a wedding if someone feels like it would violate their privacy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  16. John H says:

    @James Joyner:

    She’s his girlfriend (count me amongst the gobsmacked) not his lawyer. I’m not getting the outrage over this breach of courtesy. Yes, it was technically illegal if he didn’t consent, but hardly uncommon. And at what point does the whistle blower’s choice become admirable? How criminal or offensive does the conversation have to be before it outweighs any expectation of privacy?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  17. Pete S says:

    Of course there needs to be some sort of idiot penalty against Sterling too. Whether you think you are being recorded or not, making racist comments about Blacks to a Black girlfriend 50 years your junior, who is being sued by your wife, and not expecting trouble is stupid. Not wanting Magic Johnson to be even indirectly associated with your LA NBA team is incredibly stupid. His comments were wrong, and have no place in our society. But he was stupid too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  18. Scott F. says:

    So, if we’re all going to be outraged, let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident. Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played.

    James, I’ve been feeling the same way about the NBA’s actions, but this quote from Kareem helped give me some perspective, though not, I think, as Kareem intended. These different things to be outraged by do not exist independent of each other.

    As has been noted, this is not an isolated act of racism from Sterling. Yet, years of public expressions of racism and, more importantly, racially discriminatory acts led to exactly no action against Sterling anywhere before now. I hadn’t even heard of the guy before last Friday. At what point do extraordinary measures become warranted when years of the conventional way of doing things has mattered not a whit? At some point, the apple cart has to be upset if any change is going to come where there’s been no impetus for change before.

    I don’t approve. And I don’t want to remotely suggest that what the girlfriend did was noble rather than sordid. But, does anyone doubt that if V. Stiviano hadn’t recorded and released that conversation, Sterling would be blissfully continuing to stain the NBA with his less public, but nonetheless real and persistent, racist behavior?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  19. pylon says:

    Federal law only requires one person’s consent to record a conversation. state laws vary. I think California is a two party consent state.

    But if he agreed to have his conversation recorded the law will be a lot trickier. Was she under an obligation to keep the record confidential? Was there an express or implied expectation of confidentiality? If so – why record at all?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  20. @Tillman:

    Depends on the state. Some only require one party to the call to consent to the recording. Some require all parties to consent. I believe California requires all parties to consent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  21. mantis says:

    It’s not the NBA’s fault, or the public’s, that Sterling exercised poor judgment in his choice of companions or that his girlfriend had no qualms about recording him and releasing the recordings. They are just dealing with it, and you rightly note that they have no better options.

    What you are uneasy with, basically, is the existence of vindictive girl/boyfriends. This is not some new phenomenon. Be careful who you trust, because they can publicly screw you over. If you are rich and powerful, it will make the news when they do. If it reveals what a despicable person you are, thems the breaks.

    That said, I’m with Kareem. This guy should have been run out on a rail long ago. He’s scum.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  22. bill says:

    @Doug Mataconis: hmm, “sterling v. silver”! i can imagine he could get as many lawyers as possible involved to get an injunction or something and slow it down. if he were wise he’d sell out quick, but at his age and with his history i don’t think he’s capable.
    @michael reynolds: if he wasn’t such a rich, crusty old white guy then maybe someone would defend his right to privacy. i mean aside from the natl.review.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  23. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    Ahh, I see. Donald Sterling makes egregious racist comments and is removed from office because of that…and because of this liberals don’t understand consequences.

    Good to know logic has no home with you.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  24. Tillman says:

    @pylon: @Stormy Dragon: Great, now I need to go through the NC legal code and make sure my blackmail files recordings for a future memoir are legal…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. Rick Almeida says:

    Some people sure do get upset when a rich & powerful ox gets gored.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  26. Tillman says:

    @mantis:

    What you are uneasy with, basically, is the existence of vindictive girl/boyfriends. This is not some new phenomenon.

    I actually think this is another permutation of the queasiness people had with NSA mass surveillance. Back then, michael reynolds made the argument (and I agreed with it) that this was the world technology has brought us, and to expect people not to use it is foolish. Anyone with a smartphone carries around a recording device constantly, and they can damage others with very little forethought.

    I don’t know the particulars of how this conversation was recorded, but it stands to reason if she was out to destroy his reputation it wouldn’t have been hard.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. Ron Beasley says:

    My hope is that some Seattle billionaire will buy the team and move it to Seattle and bring back the Super Sonics. The NBA has not been the same since Seattle lost it’s franchise..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  28. Franklin says:

    I’m queasy with this as well, in the general case but not this specific case. My reasoning is simply that statements, particularly ones recorded privately and possibly edited privately, can be taken out of context. And to be honest, it won’t be too long before we can get a software program to mimic someone’s voice and say anything (perhaps we already can???).

    Obviously I’m not queasy about this specific case because there seems to be a huge amount of evidence supporting what we hear in the recording.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  29. anjin-san says:

    Seeing as how Sterling is married, maybe having a girlfriend is just a bad idea all the way around.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  30. mantis says:

    @Tillman:

    I actually think this is another permutation of the queasiness people had with NSA mass surveillance. Back then, michael reynolds made the argument (and I agreed with it) that this was the world technology has brought us, and to expect people not to use it is foolish. Anyone with a smartphone carries around a recording device constantly, and they can damage others with very little forethought.

    Foolish is the right word. Technology changes the world we live in, for good and for bad. We have less privacy as a result of the Internet, cellphones, and the proliferation of cheap compact video/audio recording devices. We also have incredible capabilities in global communications, massive new opportunity for commerce, much easier access to information, greater ability to keep government/law enforcement accountable, and a host of other benefits. You have to take the good with the bad, or go live as a Luddite. If one’s response to some of the unavoidable negative consequences is to simply say “I don’t like it,” without offering some solution and while continuing to use all the technology that makes those negative consequences possible, I say too bad. There’s a lot in the world I don’t like too, but I try not to engage in pointless whinging.

    For all those who find this very unsettling, where were you when tapes of private conversations of Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin went public (among others)? Were those incidents as unsettling too?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  31. John Cole says:

    I would think James would be the first person to recognize that while he may feel uncomfortable about this being used this way, the other 29 billionaire owners of NBA franchises are very concerned with the reputation of the league and the loss of billions of dollars and really uncomfortable with him still being a part of the NBA. Which is why they have a constitution for the league and why this is happening.

    Other people who might be uncomfortable right now? The black players, coaches, and fans.

    Then again, the old maxim rings true, as well. Character is how you behave when you think no one is watching.

    Good riddance, and for me, the issue is a private league doing what they think is what is best for themselves. Some might call that the free market.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  32. James Joyner says:

    @John Cole: John, I make that point in the second and penultimate paragraphs. Given that this is now public, I don’t see that the commissioner or owners have any choice here for all the reasons you cite.

    And, yes, “Character is how you behave when you think no one is watching.” But it doesn’t follow that I think someone should be watching all the time, even in the privacy of your own home. Again, I’m quite clear here: It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. I’m not upset about this happening to Donald Sterling per se. But I’m nonetheless queasy about the notion that a man can be severely punished for private utterances.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  33. Jr says:

    @Ron Beasley: Don’t see it, the market and the contract with Staples is too much to pass up. Hell, the Clippers have been the worst run NBA franchise over the last 30 years, but has still been among the most profitable and that is due to the market and having cheaper tickets then the Lakers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  34. Tillman says:

    I prefer the version “character is what you are in the dark.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. Rick Almeida says:

    Given your concerns, James, I’d be much heartened if you went to bat for the Alabama state employee fired for complying with a subpoena.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  36. rudderpedals says:

    @Rick Almeida: Your link is horrifying. Alabama really really needs a whistleblower law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  37. Nick says:

    James wrote:

    “[My concern is that punishing someone solely for private remarks that have been illegally recorded is bad for society.”

    If you learned through an illegal phone conversation that a neighbor evinced character traits that you wouldn’t want your children exposed to, would you continue to allow your children to visit him and use his swimming pool (he really, really, enjoys those visits), because to stop them from visiting him would amount to punishing him for private remarks that have been illegally recorded?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  38. James Joyner says:

    @Nick: No. But I’m not a major public institution nor is not letting my kids visit someone’s house tantamount to taking their most prized possession and depriving him of millions of dollars.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  39. James Joyner says:

    @Rick Almeida: @rudderpedals: Yes, I just hadn’t gotten around to posting about that until just now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  40. Rick Almeida says:

    You’re a good man, James. Much obliged.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. al-Ameda says:

    Let’s review:

    He bought the team about 30 years ago for $12 million.

    He will in all likelihood be “forced” to sell it now, probably for about $750 million.

    The team is good now, it’s in therefore it has a lot of value, despite the sad history of the franchise. Don’t believe me – the Milwaukee Bucks just sold for over $500 million – a franchise in Los Angeles is worth much more than that.

    I’m thinking that Sterling will be just fine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  42. Scott O says:

    Maybe Sterling’s previous history should have been enough to bring bad consequences upon him but hearing the words come out of his mouth has a lot more impact than reading something.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  43. al-Ameda says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    “Instead of finding one’s salvation on the path of traditional religions, liberals look for salvation in a set of right opinions–on race, the environment, income distribution, gender, or whatever.”

    Well of course. I’m sure that the Dixie Chicks understand that. We all know that Clear Channel was deeply concerned about ” “salvation on the path of traditional religions” when they trashed the Dixie Chicks for their comments about then president George W Bush.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  44. Tillman says:

    @al-Ameda: It’s a conspiracy. Big liberal government will exact sales tax from such a huge sale and reap millions. That’s why all them liberals called for this old crotchety dude’s firing!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  45. al-Ameda says:

    @Tillman:

    @al-Ameda: It’s a conspiracy. Big liberal government will exact sales tax from such a huge sale and reap millions. That’s why all them liberals called for this old crotchety dude’s firing!

    Conservatives conveniently overlook their own rampant political correctness.

    Major League Baseball managed to force Marge Schott out for her “Hitler” comments, so I don’t think it’s a stretch for the NBA – of which 80% of the players are Black – to force out a guy like Sterling who managed to alienate nearly all of the employees that create the value that the owners bank. Nearly all of the owners were appalled by this too, and you can bet they didn’t like what they saw ahead if the Commissioner did not take the action that he did.

    You’d think that conservatives might understand the BUSINESS NATURE of this decision.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  46. An Interested Party says:

    The firing of Eich and the punishment of Sterling could be seen as religious rituals…

    Awwww….poor Donald Sterling…he’s just another victim…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  47. Tyrell says:

    This week it is a “professional” sports team owner who makes nutcase, bizarre statements that makes one wonder how someone like this was granted the right to own a team; but of course money came into play somewhere. Who will it be next week? A coach? Maybe a cable installer. Perhaps a brain surgeon. How about a bus driver? Chow about a hockey team scout ? Could it be a rock star? Or a merry-go-round ride operator ? Will it be a senator? And a life insurance salesman ? Perhaps a famous artist ? Or a manicurist? Could it be that it will be someone who we are completely shocked and surprised about ? Which network will be the first to devote 24 hour news coverage to it ?
    “Because you’re mine, I walk the line” (Cash)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  48. michael reynolds says:

    @Tillman:

    Of course it is. But I don’t believe stuff like this should be illegal. It’s the sort of law you could never enforce.

    I completely agree. We are in an era when privacy as we’ve defined it (for a very brief period of time, really,) is fast reverting to what we knew in village life, which is to say not much privacy at all. But what we need are social norms rather than laws.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  49. Nick says:

    James:

    Then you’re okay with using information gained illegally about someone to protect your children from a private menace, but not okay with the public using information gained illegally about someone to protect potentially millions of children from a public menace (Sterling’s racism if not addressed would send a powerfully damaging message to literally millions of children-and adults).

    It seems like your problem is less with the illegality of the private recording and more with the degree of punishment. To which I would reply, that depends a lot on how seriously you think the damage is from his racism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  50. Rick Almeida says:

    @Tyrell:

    I’m not sure what your point is. Do you lament that the vast majority of Americans can be punished professionally for their private speech? Join the club.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  51. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    taking their most prized possession

    I’m having a hard time working up sympathy for Sterling. Owning a major league sports franchise gives you a very high profile, and you are answerable to the league office, which has a lot of power over you, billionaire or no. You also have obligations to the sport, and to your franchise and fans.

    For an NBA owner to say those things in any conversation, private or not, is insanity.

    People in the bay area loved Eddie Debartolo. He turned SF into football heaven. But when he got punted for trying to get involved in gambling, he did not get a lot of sympathy. You own an NFL team? Sorry, no gambling interests. Adios. What a shame.

    We are talking about men who had the greatest boy toys imaginable, and managed to screw it up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  52. mantis says:

    @James Joyner:

    But I’m not a major public institution

    The NBA is not a public institution either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  53. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m just leery of holding people accountable for the worst thing they’ve ever said behind closed doors to someone they trust.

    To quote Singing in the Rain: “Zelda and me ain’t *people*”

    We’re talking about the billionaire owner of a billion dollar entertainment franchise. He should expect to be held accountable for everything he says to anyone, ever. It’s a symptom of his detachment from reality that he would think his concubine wouldn’t consider ratting out his loathsome ass at the first opportunity.

    Sorry, but it’s impossible to muster any sympathy at all for the colossal hubris involved here. He’s not being convicted of a crime; he’s not being sued on civil grounds. He’s just being outed as a piece of filth. There is no “inadmissible evidence” in that court.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  54. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Ron Beasley: How has the NBA changed? Isn’t it still a bunch of corporate welfare queens posing as “creators?”

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  55. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @mantis: Of course not! Mel Gibson and Alex Baldwin are public figures in the entertainment industry. This guy is a…a..,. businessman for goshsakes. It’s completely different!

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  56. dazedandconfused says:

    Queasy it is, but on the other ledger, this was also a case of the finest and even extremely well-to-do of US citizens, Ervin Johnson, being excluded because he is black. As much as we all like to think poor people should be treated the same as rich, none of us really expects anyone to adhere to that. However, even for the poorest of blacks there remains the hope of gaining respect. If Magic can’t gain that…

    It plucked a chord. Gotta face it. There’s not quite as much silly in this as Kareem frames there to be, although he is very right about the way we absolve ourselves with intense finger wagging.

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  57. Console says:

    Meh, I’ve seen the other side of things too much to truly be worried. People recording cops engaged in wrongdoing and then the state prosecuting the person making the recording of the wrongdoing cops. The kid that recently recorded his bullying in a classroom and was subsequently turned into the police. After a certain point, I’m not sure who’s rights are actually being protected.

    The fact is, for all this whining about how Sterling has been a racist for a long time and how people have ignored his past history, the reality is that no one cared because America is pretty dedicated to the idea that racism doesn’t exist. So a guy can lose a lawsuit about housing discrimination, can be noted saying racist things multiple times… but no one makes a move. And imagine if this girlfriend had simply decided to tell the press about his comments instead of recording him. Do you think there would have been any impact? Or would she just have been pushed to the side like everyone else that called him a racist? The recording is what it took for people (even black people) to truly by into this idea that someone so rich and important could be racist.

    So no, my biggest fear isn’t about privacy.

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  58. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT:

    We’re talking about the billionaire owner of a billion dollar entertainment franchise. He should expect to be held accountable for everything he says to anyone, ever.

    That’s a bizarre standard to me. I don’t hold presidents of the United States to that standard, unless it’s they’re discussing public policy or engaging in criminal conspiracies.

    @Just ‘nutha’ ig’rant cracker: @mantis: No, I’m actually a lot more sympathetic to Gibson and Baldwin than I am to Sterling; despite some really weird belief systems, I think they’re probably better people. With respect to Gibson, the private recording was one in a string of similarly embarrassing drunken incidents. I don’t recall the Baldwin incident to which you’re referring but, regardless, he’s had a string of embarrassing public events.

    And, again, the point of the post isn’t that I feel sorry for Donald Sterling. Despite my play on the classic Rolling Stones tune in the title, I really don’t; he’s a pretty despicable guy. And, again, I don’t think the NBA had any good alternative given the public furor over this. I nonetheless think we’re opening up a dangerous precedent here.

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  59. mantis says:

    @James Joyner:

    I nonetheless think we’re opening up a dangerous precedent here.

    I can understand that, but I believe the precedent was set long ago. In fact, I believe it is immemorial. Incremental technology advances just keep making it more possible for more people to capture another person’s “private” moments. But it’s nothing new. We have always had people make claims about what this person or that person told them in confidence (or what they overheard). The difference now is that virtually anyone, with a bit of foresight or quick action, can get a recording, a far more reliable standard of proof (though manipulable to fraudulent ends in its own right).

    The big difference is in such instances the accused can no longer employ the “he said, she said” defense. So be it. Pandora’s box has always been open. She just has a smartphone now.

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  60. gVOR08 says:

    Atrios at Eschaton picked up on what Sterling said elsewhere in the same conversation.

    The racism will deservedly get the attention, but it’s useful to get a peek into the mind of the 1%.

    V: Do you know that you have a whole team that’s black, that plays for you?

    DS: You just, do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have—Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?

    ESPN is reporting that the players, the whole league, were threatening to boycott the playoffs. Given the racism and this .001%er crap, they had to. So the league had no choice.

    James, bad things, unfair things, happen to good people every day. This time a long overdue bad thing happened to someone who richly deserved it. So on your concerns about this resulting from a private conversation, boo freaking hoo.

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  61. Nick says:

    First, this was a business decision.

    Second, it was a business decision driven by public response to the situation.

    Third, the public response is driven by the fact that we continue to fail to have an honest discussion about racism in the country.

    For example, roughly half the population is invested in the idea that racism is no longer a problem, and if it is, it’s white people who are the victims. And NO, they are NOT racists themselves. We call them Republicans.

    The other half of the problem recognizes racism is a problem, but doesn’t think they have any racial prejudices (Google ‘aversive racism’). We call them Democrats.

    There is, of course, a solid core of flat out racists. White nationalists, Black nationalists, hard core Zionists. Many if not most of them freely admit their willingness to discriminate based on race or religion.

    Finally, there is a small group of us who admit we have racial prejudices, recognize that it’s a problem, and are looking for ways to minimize the consequences of our prejudices.

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  62. Nick says:

    A large part of the problem is that many of us have personal investments in denying that racism exists or that we have racial prejudices. Sinclair Lewis’ notion that you can count on a man failing to understand something when his paycheck depends on his not understanding it, comes into play for many white Americans.

    Another part of the problem is that we don’t share a vocabulary for discussing prejudices or racism. Even academics have some differences in definition, although that is probably more about very subtle nuances.

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  63. Eric Florack says:

    Granted, in the first sentence, the guy is less than, well, sterling. I make no defense for him. That said, though, there are a number of points about this case that deserve comment.

    1: If I hear one more idiot declare that Sterling’s first amendment rights have been violated, I swear I will feed them to Bill and Hillary’s paper shredder. There are points of law in this case, but the constitution isn’t one of them. I view that business as one more indication of how bad government education is.

    2:If Sterling is so much a racist, what’s with the half-black girlfriend? Does not compute, and there seems no explanation for it. (And mind, Ill say nothing of the age difference, though I suppose his ex-wife will.)

    3: If Sterling is so much a racist why was he being set up for his second Lifetime achievement award from the NAACP in LA? There *IS* an explanation for that one…  The NAACP was letting the money Sterling was tossing at them cover an apparent multitude of sins. In other words, the race baiters at the NAACP sold out for their real goal. Money.

    4: Why now? If, as we are being told his behavior is a long standing issue, what caused it to come to the fore, just now?  This one is a bit more complex. Anyone investigating this happening should ask as a ground level question, ‘who or what would this going to CNNs wall to wall coverage help?”

    The answer came, rather unexpectedly, in the form of a presidential news conference. When was the last time any of you saw or heard of a private citizen’s private conversation, being a topic of a presidential news conference? It was at that moment that the reasons for the timing of this thing started falling together for me.

    Picture what is happening, here.  We have a president with a 41% approval rating at last check, who has been for some time now trying to sell the idea that the only reason 59% of the country disapproves of him is because he’s black.  His policies, one by one are being shown as abject failures. Benghazi, Obamacare, jobs, the huge growth of government on his watch, The guy is a walking disaster. Pointing all of this out tends to get the usual suspects charging racism as well, but increasingly the charge is falling on deaf ears as the american people figure out increasingly for themselves what the proximate cause of all these failures are.

    Add to this the recent admissions case from Michigan the USSC just ruled on, the fraud conviction of Jeri Wright, daughter of Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s erstwhile pastor, whose chickens have now come home to roost, and so many more points damaging to the cause of the race huxters, and clearly a diversion is called for. Something to get the people riled up to where they pay no attention to the reality of these failures. Hopefully before the mid-term elections in which the left will supposedly be paying for their sins. There’s a large number of folks who would love to change that situation.
    Gotta find a way to push the message its all because of racism.

    Well, its been observed many times that there is no easier way to get the leftist press to ‘chase the squirrel’ than to get someone to holler ‘racist’. So, the long term situation gets raised to crisis level by the rather convenient means of spreading an unattributed recording around via an already willing press, who immediately goes viral with it.

    5:sterling is undeniably a sports figure, which is a gold mine for ‘the cause’, since pounding this race baiting message home doesn’t require a stable news cycle to maintain the drumbeat for an extended period. Have you listened to any of the sports channels of late? Have you noticed they all tend to sound like Bob Kostas? They’ll be carrying water on this one for weeks, now regardless what the news channels do.

    6: What now? Well, someone or several someones buy the team… people like the folks the girlfriend was paling around with, to the objection of Sterling on that recording. Its just a guess, mind you, but I will bet she remains attached to the team by way of her old friends, the new owners… who could not have bought the team at all, and certainly not at the firesale price they’ll buy it with, absent the scandal.

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  64. mantis says:

    It’s a conspiracy to help the president! Of course! All things are. Thanks for clearing that up, bithead.

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  65. Eric Florack says:

    @mantis: apparently, you didnt read the whole thing. Its a black image thing, not so much an obama image thing. hes simply the guy in front for the moment.

    Oh, and add Cummings facing five years in prison to this list as well.

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  66. Dave Schuler says:

    Let’s face it, folks. If you can’t trust the woman you’re cheating on your wife with, who can you trust?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  67. James Joyner says:

    @Dave Schuler: There is that. I don’t have any insights into the nature of Sterling’s relationship with Mrs. Sterling. Media reports have them as “estranged,” which one would imagine, but I haven’t a clue whether the affair (or a propensity for affairs) was the driver or rather followed said estrangement.

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  68. Matt Bernius says:

    @Eric Florack:
    If you wonder why no one takes you seriously when you polemic about race, I direct you to what you just wrote (apparently without any irony):

    2: If Sterling is so much a racist, what’s with the half-black girlfriend? Does not compute, and there seems no explanation for it. (And mind, Ill say nothing of the age difference, though I suppose his ex-wife will.)

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  69. pylon says:

    If Sterling is so much a racist, what’s with the half-black girlfriend?

    See: Thurmond, Strom; 12 Years a Slave; hell, Jefferson/Hemmings

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  70. anjin-san says:

    pounding this race baiting message home

    Ah yes – “racism sucks, and we won’t tolerate it” is “race baiting”

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  71. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t hold presidents of the United States to that standard, unless it’s they’re discussing public policy or engaging in criminal conspiracies.

    Two words: Monica Lewinski. Whether you personally don’t care what Presidents do and say when they aren’t either ruling or breaking the law, clearly the nation as a whole does.

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  72. anjin-san says:

    I suppose his ex-wife will

    Sterling does not have an ex-wife, he has a wife.

    If a married man chooses to have a girlfriend and flaunt it publicly, I can’t get too worked up about the negative impact on his life.

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  73. Andre Kenji says:

    @Eric Florack:

    If Sterling is so much a racist, what’s with the half-black girlfriend?

    She was his mistress, not his girlfriend – meaning, someone that you want in a stable relationship.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  74. DrDaveT says:

    @Eric Florack:

    2:If Sterling is so much a racist, what’s with the half-black girlfriend? Does not compute, and there seems no explanation for it. (And mind, Ill say nothing of the age difference, though I suppose his ex-wife will.)

    I don’t know which is scarier — the idea that you could really be that ignorant, or the idea that you could really be that deliberately disingenuous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  75. grumpy realist says:

    To those of who like to think that the reason this all blew up now is because Obama/conspiracy/blackity black black/conspiracy against Sterling:

    He’s not being protected any more. The last Commissioner of the NBA did seem to have a history of brushing it all under the table.

    Now there’s a new guy, and he’s not going to so any extry speshial favours for a fellow (whatever).

    That’s the main difference.

    The funniest thing so far has been the contorting the LA NAACP has been doing to try to convince people that they knew Notheeng, just ab-so-lute-ly notheeng about how racist this guy has been all these years.

    There’s a reason why everyone’s been giving them the hairy eyeball.

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  76. mantis says:

    @Eric Florack:

    apparently, you didnt read the whole thing.

    Oh, but I did.

    Why now?…The answer came, rather unexpectedly, in the form of a presidential news conference. When was the last time any of you saw or heard of a private citizen’s private conversation, being a topic of a presidential news conference? It was at that moment that the reasons for the timing of this thing started falling together for me….blah blah Obama’s a failure…and clearly a diversion is called for. Something to get the people riled up to where they pay no attention to the reality of these failures. Hopefully before the mid-term elections in which the left will supposedly be paying for their sins. There’s a large number of folks who would love to change that situation.
    Gotta find a way to push the message its all because of racism.

    You laid it out, bithead. The Sterling tape was produced as a distraction from the failures of Obama. You can pretend you didn’t write that, but you did.

    Oh, and add Cummings facing five years in prison to this list as well.

    So devious! Those black folks are able to plan a conspiracy to distract from things that exist only in your fantasies. They are good.

    Keep watching for those black helicopters, bithead.

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  77. Eric Florack says:

    @Matt Bernius: If the guy is a racist, one would think he wouldn’t be infolved in a personal relationship with a “person of color”. Is that so hard to fathom, Matt?

    Mantis… You apparently missed…

    Add to this the recent admissions case from Michigan the USSC just ruled on, the fraud conviction of Jeri Wright, daughter of Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s erstwhile pastor, whose chickens have now come home to roost, and so many more points damaging to the cause of the race huxters, and clearly a diversion is called for.

    I fail to understand how that got by you except willingly.

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  78. Matt Bernius says:

    If the guy is a racist, one would think he wouldn’t be infolved in a personal relationship with a “person of color”.

    The answer should be obvious. It’s easily found on the internet. I suggest you search for it. If you do the research on it, it’ll mean more to you when you find the answer!

    In the meantime, I’ll just continue to point out that your continued posts demonstrate why no one takes your views on race particularly seriously.

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  79. Grewgills says:

    @Matt Bernius:
    It fits in perfectly with his historical view of racism. All those antebellum Southerners that had slave mistresses couldn’t be racist, after all if they were racist they “wouldn’t be infolved in a personal relationship with a “person of color”.”

    Some people’s idiocy is beyond parody.

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  80. pylon says:

    In fact, in slave states, i imagine sleeping with a slave woman wasn’t really cheating since she wasn’t a person.So, a feature, not a bug, of racism.

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  81. beth says:

    @anjin-san: So he’s still married to his wife and he brings the girlfriend to sit courtside with him at the games? Wow, I didn’t think he could be a bigger jerk. What a prize specimen of a man.

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  82. pylon says:

    FWIW, the girl’s lawyer says she (a) wasn’t in a relationship with him (sexual or romantic), (b) he was aware of the recording and (c) there was someone else in the room when the recording was made.

    (a) strikes me as probably untrue given the words on the tape.
    (b) and (c) are far more important to this thread.

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  83. Matt Bernius says:

    @Grewgills:
    I wonder if he’ll actually do the internet research to check out the validity of my point. I’m told that he might learn something from it.

    Otherwise, I find it strange that he won’t accept what I wrote at face value.

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  84. grumpy realist says:

    @pylon: Geez, this starts to sound like a standard law school exam question. “What legal issues are raised….?” Tick off recording, permission of. Tick expectation of confidentiality when third party is present….

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  85. Eric Florack says:

    @Andre Kenji: so, we are to ignore the huge sums spent on her, and the length of the relationship? Sorry, not sure I see the difference.@beth: @beth: I tend to be sympathetic to both yours and anjin’s point here. Then again, I’ve seen reports that he and his wife were all over but the signature. So, (shrug)…

    As to the reason that recording was even made, consider my point 6 again.
    All the others who piled on, the race huxters, including Obama, are simply being good race huxters… who are never less than opportunistic.

    By the way, I found Kareem’s comments interesting. Too bad they don’t fit the race huxter mantra, or they’d have gotten more exposure.

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  86. anjin-san says:

    @ Florack

    Then again, I’ve seen reports that he and his wife were all over but the signature. So, (shrug)…

    Got to love a family values conservative. Sanctity of marriage, (shrug). Married man keeping very public time with his mistress (shrug) – well he is rich, and he is white. The rules are not meant for a man like him.

    Cut to “Bill Clinton got a blow job?????? That bastard!!!!! He is married!!!!!!)

    So, in the rightverse “sanctity of marriage” is a slogan to be trotted out when useful (gay marriage will destroy the sanctity of marriage!!), not an actual moral imperative.

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  87. anjin-san says:

    If the guy is a racist, one would think he wouldn’t be infolved in a personal relationship with a “person of color”.

    That you have so little insight into human behavior and sexuality comes as no surprise.

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  88. anjin-san says:

    It’s noteworthy that neither bithead or Jenos can discuss this issue this issue without bringing Obama into it.

    Hmmm, I almost forgot. Obama is black.

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  89. DrDaveT says:

    @Eric Florack:

    so, we are to ignore the huge sums spent on her, and the length of the relationship?

    Seriously?

    I gotta give you credit, you do not fear to double down on Teh Stupid.

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  90. Console says:

    I want people to realize that they are making a judgement call on what was said here when they invoke privacy. Because if the guy was stating that he was a serial killer in private, I highly doubt anyone would give a damn about privacy. We’re trying to paint this as though this is simply some guy saying something disagreeable in confidence (as if the only thing wrong with an employer being racist is political correctness) rather then a guy that’s a powerful individual finally being seen as who he is by the public.

    People are being a bit too ridiculously contrarian on this point. Two party consent isn’t even the law in most states. I mean, I get why media personalities and other people with public faces would be very disturbed by this (thus the kvetching in the media), but that’s not a universal concern.

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  91. anjin-san says:

    Right or wrong, the private conversation became public. People get burned all the time when things they thought were private go public. Nothing new here.

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  92. Matt Bernius says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    She was his mistress, not his girlfriend – meaning, someone that you want in a stable relationship.

    Actually, I’d argue that you want relationships with your mistress to be “stable” as well. In fact arguably more stable than one with a girlfriend.

    The goal is to keep the mistress a mistress and the roles pretty clearly defined. The *hope*, generally speaking of any x-friend relationship is for it to grow and evolve over time, transitioning through different forms of partnership.

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  93. DrDaveT says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Actually, I’d argue that you want relationships with your mistress to be “stable” as well.

    Stability is valuable in all long-term business transactions, yes.

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  94. Eric Florack says:

    http://www.ijreview.com/2014/04/134347-nj-mayoral-candidate-reportedly-joins-ranks-democrats-going-racist-tirades

    So where’s all the foaming at the mouth over this one, guys?
    Is the sin equal, or not?

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  95. DrDaveT says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Is the sin equal, or not?

    Yes.

    Next?

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  96. B. says:

    @John H: murder.

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