Thursday, May 1, 2014


Is anyone talking about sports this week? Actual ball bouncing, running around, winning and losing sports?

It seems that for most of the week the furor of Clippers owner, Donald Sterling's, racist commentary that was recorded and released to the public has pushed the actual games to the back page. I actually think that is appropriate. Racism is an ugly blight on our society and it should be confronted and opposed when it rears its head.

I've seen quite a few bloggers and commentators (HERE, HERE, and HERE) using Sterling's comments and punishment to raise a whole lot of issues including:
  • Why Sterling wasn't previously punished by the NBA for previous racist business practices that were revealed in the courts.
  • The role of the media in raising a riot and prompting action.
  • Concerns about private conversations being made public.
  • Whether or not the punishment is too severe, after all the Clippers have a great track record for hiring minorities.
  • Why the American public will riot over these comments but accept disproportionate rates of incarceration and other systemic justice concerns as just the way things are.
  • Freedom of speech.
I agree that most of these are interesting conversations. Nevertheless, they are smokescreens that obscure the fundamental principle at play here, namely that our actions, and words, have consequences.

I understand that Sterling should feel upset that the privacy of his home was violated. I understand that the girlfriend who recorded the conversation was acting out of malice rather than as a champion of racial harmony.

But let me ask, how would you respond if you had that conversation with Donald Sterling or with your best friend? Racism is sin and sin has consequences.

In Matthew 18 Jesus lays out a process of raising sin with and individual. If there's no repentance bring some friends and discuss it. If there is still no repentance bring it before the church. If there is still no repentance they are no longer to be regarded as part of the church.

In other words, Jesus says that if a hateful conversation takes place privately between two Christians and there's no repentance it should become a public issue. The sin should be laid before the church, identified and condemned. Obviously Sterling's situation isn't a church, and there were no intermediate steps between his private conversation and public humiliation. However, Christians should be most understanding that sinful behaviour has consequences. Covering up sin and hate is ungodly and destructive to the individual and the church.

The NBA issued Donald Sterling a lifetime ban and will work with the other owners to force him to sell his investment in the Clippers. This is drastic action, but don't let all the other smokescreens confuse the problem.

Sterling is one of just 30 NBA owners. He is a guardian of the sport. If a coach made these comments, he'd be fired. If a player made these comments he'd likely lose his job. When one of the 30 most powerful people in the sport expresses hatred for people with dark skin he should expect consequences. The fact that 29 other billionaires are apparently willing to vote him off the ownership island indicate the severity of his comments.

When we sin we often try to make excuses and deflect responsibility. That's what Adam and Eve did. "It's your fault God, you gave me the woman." "It's the serpents fault, he lied to me."

The Christian faith is all about actions and consequences. Adam and Eve ate the fruit, God punished them. God sent His Son to die on the cross: He offers us forgiveness. We sin: We need forgiveness. God loves us: We love others.

We thank God that no matter how vile our sins He always provides a way back for us. Sterling may never be able to gain public respect again. But God is always willing to forgive. Our actions have consequences, but they're not permanent.

In contrast, God's actions provide eternal security for us. That's a consequence I value.

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