Don’t Insult Brendan Eich by Comparing His Plight to Donald Sterling’s

by David French

After I wrote my post on Wednesday arguing that Adam Silver made the right call in banning Donald Sterling, I got a surprising amount of comments and e-mail from conservatives arguing that if I was for Sterling’s ouster, then I was merely supporting the notion that “thoughtcrime” could end careers — with Brendan Eich the typical counterexample.

Honestly, if conservatives feel they can’t argue for the different treatment of Sterling and Eich, then they should just grab their gun and dog and head for the hills, because it’s all over for them. They’ve given up.

How are Eich and Sterling different? Let me count the ways:

First, Eich was right on substance and Sterling was horribly wrong. Opposing the sexual revolution’s continued redefinition of marriage as an institution centered around at-will contracts for adult fulfillment is a vital act of cultural preservation. Opposing legal and cultural changes that have done real harm to our first liberty — religious liberty — is a vital act of constitutional preservation. How much social and constitutional damage do we have to endure before we realize that ephemeral notions of adult fulfillment and happiness cannot and must not dictate how we define and support marriage? 

Second, there is no evidence Eich mistreated his colleagues – even those who disagreed with him — while Sterling had a documented history of discrimination and abuse. In an excellent post contrasting Eich and Sterling — directed at his fellow liberals – Slate’s Will Saletan noted this quote from Mozilla’s executive chairwoman, Mitchell Baker:

My experience is that Brendan is as committed to opportunity and diversity inside Mozilla as anyone, and more so than many. This commitment to opportunity for all within Mozilla has been a key foundation of our work for many years. I see it in action regularly.

Would any rational person say that about Donald Sterling? His long history of actual acts of racial discrimination has been thoroughly documented. To review the goriest of the details, read Saletan’s post.

Third, Eich was a superstar contributor to his company and his industry, while Sterling was a parasitic freeloader who harmed the NBA’s brand. Eich created JavaScript. He was one of the founders of the Mozilla Foundation. Sterling, by contrast, had the worst record in professional sports and freeloaded entirely off the efforts and energies of the largely African-American athletes he so despised. While he presided over a horrible franchise, its value skyrocketed all because (as I said in my first post) athletes like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson were transforming the NBA into a global brand.

Fourth, even if one focuses only on the speech that precipitated the controversy, Eich’s had nothing to do with the workplace while Sterling’s related directly to his team. Eich made a monetary contribution to a ballot initiative. That’s it. Sterling’s speech demonstrated an intent to exclude a Hall-of-Fame black athlete from his arena – from the very workspace of his organization. 

So, to recap, Eich was on the right side of the issue, he treated his colleagues well, and he was an outstanding contributor to his company and industry. Sterling was horribly wrong, committed multiple acts of actual racial discrimination, and was long known as the worst owner in all of professional sports. Any comparison of Eich with Sterling is slanderous to Eich and unduly elevates Sterling. If a private organization can’t justly take action against Sterling, when can it act?

Defend Brendan Eich, but not by supporting Donald Sterling. Eich doesn’t need that kind of “help.”

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