As most people know by now, Donald Sterling [owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association] has been banned for life by the NBA because of some remarkably racist statements he made to an ex-mistress. The other 29 owners of teams are also expecting to find a way to "induce" him to sell the Clippers.
Yesterday a friend wrote to me, wondering how libertarians would react to the NBA's decisions. Much of my reaction is probable and surmise.
- On the one hand, if someone is selling a product or service I want, I am not always aware of or even interested in their religious or political beliefs.... a sort of live-and-let-live attitude.
- At the same time, if I know they hold views I find abhorrent, I will assiduously try to avoid patronizing them.
- Knowing that if the NBA did nothing in response to Sterling's remarks, there would be bad publicity for the Clippers in particular and the NBA in general, the NBA quickly realized that attendance would drop, sales of merchandise would drop, and the overall profits of all the teams in the league would decline if they did nothing.
- And that is why they presumably have by-laws, regulations, rules, whatever, by which every member must abide if they wish to remain members of the league in any capacity.
- I'm guessing the league has used these by-laws about behaviour detrimental to the league, or blatantly discriminatory, or some such to justify legally the sanctions imposed on Sterling.
- If so, those sanctions are covered by freely entered contracts, which most libertarians (or quasi-libertarians like me) support.
In other words, the banning of Donald Sterling by the NBA is fully consistent with the views held by most libertarians. He joined an organization and did something likely contrary to the by-laws of the organization, so they expelled him. So long as their own by-laws are legally acceptable, no problem.