Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Why aren't we also outraged that Donald Sterling was secretly recorded?

This isn’t a defense of Sterling, whom he hopes loses the team, just a plenty-of-blame-to-go-around scolding — and a good one, too. Read it all. He blames Sterling for old-school bigotry, the media for ignoring Sterling’s history of racist behavior until it was served up on a silver platter last weekend, and Sterling’s girlfriend for violating his privacy by recording their conversations. That last bit is an interesting analog to the reaction among some righties after Cliven Bundy said what he said about slavery and the welfare state. Just because the man holds outre views, Bundy’s defenders argued, doesn’t mean that the feds’ land-use policies are correct. Abdul-Jabbar’s making the same point about Sterling’s privacy, a small rebuke to the idea that when it comes to punishing a cardinal social sin like prejudice, the ends justify the means. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is worried about the same thing.

“Again, there’s no excuse for his positions. There’s no excuse for what he said. There’s no excuse for anybody to support racism. There’s no place for it in our league, but there’s a very, very, very slippery slope.

“If it’s about racism and we’re ready to kick people out of the league, OK? Then what about homophobia? What about somebody who doesn’t like a particular religion. What about somebody who’s anti-semitic What about a xenophobe?

“In this country, people are allowed to be morons.”

Here’s Kareem. Just one question: Was Sterling’s privacy violated?

And now the poor guy’s girlfriend (undoubtedly ex-girlfriend now) is on tape cajoling him into revealing his racism. Man, what a winding road she led him down to get all of that out. She was like a sexy nanny playing “pin the fried chicken on the Sambo.” She blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing themselves with glee.

They caught big game on a slow news day, so they put his head on a pike, dubbed him Lord of the Flies, and danced around him whooping…

Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy in such an un-American way? Although the impact is similar to Mitt Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that Romney was giving a public speech. The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime. We didn’t steal the cake but we’re all gorging ourselves on it.

“I hope whoever made this illegal tape is sent to prison,” he concludes. Is the tape illegal, though? Well, California is a two-party consent state when it comes to wiretapping; if Sterling didn’t consent, his girlfriend could indeed do time for recording him. The curveball here is that she claims he did consent. Supposedly, she has more than 100 hours of audio of him rambling about God knows what, all of which was done with his approval because, she says … he had trouble remembering things and used the tapes as memory-fresheners. Which raises a new legal/ethical question: Does an 80-year-old man with memory problems have the capacity to “consent” within the meaning of the wiretapping law? (Follow-up: Should an 80-year-old man who needs audio to remember things he said be running an NBA franchise?) That’s not to suggest that Sterling’s “plantation mentality,” as Abdul-Jabbar aptly describes it in the clip below, is a product of age. Kareem’s whole point is that he has a long history of dubious racial behavior and only now is being closely scrutinized for it. But does the ends justify the means in exposing him — even bearing in mind that Sterling’s gotten a free pass for stuff like this his entire, very comfortable life? To see him swing from 80 years of near-impunity to public enemy number one overnight is odd, but is it unjust?

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s going to make an announcement about Sterling today at 2 p.m. ET. At a minimum he’ll face a huge fine; what they can do to him beyond that is unclear, but stay tuned. Exit question via policy genius Al Sharpton: Should the Clippers disband?