Media Takes Issue with Media for Actually Asking Tough Question about Sterling

by Andrew Johnson

During NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s press conference yesterday, where he announced the league was banning Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life, one reporter asked Silver about the precedent such a decision would set for the league moving forward.

“Should someone lose their team for remarks shared in private?” she asked. “Is this a slippery slope?”

That reporter happened to be from Fox News (Jovian Wei of The Kelly File, to be exact). And wondering about the process and possible impact of a globally popular league’s first lifetime ban in nearly 30 years was out of line, according to Huffington Post and MSNBC.

In a post disingenuously titled “Fox News Reporter Is The Only One Who Seems To Have An Issue With Donald Sterling Ban,” HuffPost Media’s senior editor Jack Mirkinson goes after Wei for not following script with the rest of the media in asking “questions [that] were about things like how Silver himself was feeling, or why the NBA had overlooked Sterling’s racism for so many years.” On his show, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz accused Wei and Fox News of finding a way to “stand up for a racist billionaire.”

Wei’s question obviously did no such thing: She wasn’t even questioning Silver’s decision, but rather inquiring about the possible ramifications of the precedent set (that privately expressed remarks could be grounds for life suspension). Along with race, one of tangential elements to the Sterling saga has been privacy, and it’s not unreasonable to suggest the NBA has set a problematic standard.

Wei is hardly the only one to think of this: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban also expressed concerns about the potential “slippery slope” begun by punishing Sterling for his remarks. He denounced Sterling’s remarks as “abhorrent,” but Cuban also said to reporters, ”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.” 

Naturally, if Silver had gone easy on Sterling and dished out little to no punishment, the media would have certainly have questioned the standard and the precedent it set. Why is it any different to do so when his punishment was remarkably harsh?