A dangerous precedent

Donald Sterling got what he deserved. And he’s deserved it for many years now.

He has paid millions of dollars for numerous lawsuits accusing him of discriminatory housing policies. Documents and interviews related to those cases stated that Sterling wouldn’t rent to black people because “they smell.” He wouldn’t lease to Latinos because “all Mexicans do is sit around and smoke and drink all day.” He didn’t want to lease to families with children because he thought kids were “brats.” 

So, basically, if you were a single, white person with no plans of starting a family you were pretty much guaranteed a lengthy stay at one of Donald Sterling’s properties.

Basketball Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor, a longtime Clipper employee, filed a lawsuit against Sterling in 2009 accusing him of “wrongful termination and discrimination.” He said that Sterling once told him that he “wished he had a team with a southern coach and poor, black players.”

When Sterling was in contract negotiations with former number one pick Danny Manning, Baylor claims that Sterling did not want to pay what Manning was asking. 

"I’m offering a lot of money for a poor, black boy,” is what Baylor claimed Sterling said. 

Furthermore, Baylor said that Sterling would bring women into the Clippers’ locker room to “look at their beautiful, black bodies.” 

Any of the things I just mentioned are reasons that Sterling could have been removed from the league. And when I initially heard about his remarks that set off the uproar earlier this week, I was not only shocked, I also wondered, “How stupid is this guy?” 

Then I found out how the remarks were obtained. They came from his mistress, who took it upon herself to record a private conversation between the two of them. And even though a rich man’s mistress can by no means be compared to the government or any other overseeing body, I couldn’t help but think of the term “big brother.” 

Okay, she was his mistress. I heard that the age difference between the two is close to 50 years. It was not an Ozzie and Harriet-type situation. 

However, it was obvious that this was a person he trusted. And when I actually heard the recording it was apparent — at least to me — that she was baiting him into saying some of these things. 

I can recall reading George Orwell’s book in high school. When it was written in 1948, the whole “big brother” thing was so unrealistic that the book was classified as being “science fiction.” Nowadays I’m not sure how you’d classify it. But the word “fiction” should be completely removed. 

Now, aside from the government’s admission that they have been tracking our emails, Facebook pages,Twitter accounts and phone calls, there is another hard truth to face.  

Anyone out there with a cell phone can be “big brother.”

The fact that any business rival, scorned lover, or person who just doesn’t like you can easily record or even videotape you in a private moment is frightening. People who are going through divorces have been taping phone calls for years. Potential employers can go onto your Facebook account and find out about something embarrassing that you did years ago. 

And ever since Mardi Gras 2011, I’ve been on the lookout for people taking pictures with cell phones. 

That night I was at the Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette with my friends James and Ella. We had been having a good time and were horsing around on the dance floor that night. I did notice that Ella was taking pictures with her phone while we were cutting up, but I didn’t make much of it.

When I got home a few hours later, I looked at my Facebook page. Not only had Ella posted the pictures (which included one of me sticking out my tongue in a Gene Simmons type of way), she had tagged me in them. That meant that they would appear on the pages of my sister, my aunt and all of my cousins. And let’s just say that I’m very thankful that my father doesn’t have a Facebook page. 

The best part was that by the time I got home and had a chance to delete the pictures, they each already had about 10 comments on them. None of which were complimenting me on my dance moves. 

I had a boss named Doug Oberle  that once told me, “I don’t give a (expletive) what you do at home so long as you show up every morning ready to work.” However, that was back in 2003, before Facebook, when I was working construction. I worked with a close-knit group of guys that would go out nearly every night and get downright crazy. I can’t help but wonder if Doug would have told us the same thing if our nightly actions were on record for all to see. 

Frankly, I think he would have been amazed that we made it to work at all. 

Admittedly, it can be confusing at times. While one man can be considered a hero for videotaping a police beating, another will be posting unflattering (and that’s a euphemism) pictures of his ex-girlfriend on Facebook. And nobody has figured out how to enforce the rules/laws on such issues.

Frankly, I don’t even know what the rules/laws are. The only thing that governs me in these situations are my own set of morals and values. And some people’s set of morals and values differ (for better or worse) greatly from mine. 

Donald Sterling is a racist who has no business running an NBA team. That is obvious. The swell of support for the new commissioner since his decision to kick him out of the league has been enormous. But, and rightly so, there has not been much support for Sterling’s “other woman.” 

Just in case anyone is watching me inside my house I’d like to take this opportunity to announce that I often dance around in my underwear while listening to 80s heavy metal music. My guilty pleasure is watching the adult cartoon Southpark  on Comedy Central. And if my dishes aren’t done, I’ll often times drink wine in a Dixie cup. 

What people should ask themselves is this: For every time an awful man like Sterling is nailed by using these techniques, is it worth the hundreds of other times where the person doing the taping is nothing more than a Peeping Tom? 

Until next week.  

 

Howell Dennis is a native of Lafayette, La. He attended the University of Texas at Arlington where he graduated in journalism and public relations.

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