Editor's note: The original headline on this article was changed to better represent the scope of Mark Cuban's remarks. Portions of the article have been revised for the same reason.
In a recent interview with Inc. Magazine, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had some rather controversial things to say about Donald Sterling, bigotry and how you can't legislate against stupidity. (h/t to The Tennessean's Shelley DuBois.)
On whether or not he will vote to oust Clippers owner Donald Sterling: You'll find out. I know how I'm going to vote, but I'm not ready to comment on it.
On how to keep bigotry out of the NBA: You don't. There's no law against stupid.
On stupidity in general: I'm the one guy who says don't force the stupid people to be quiet – I want to know who the morons are.
On bigotry in general: I know I'm prejudiced and I know I'm bigoted in a lot of different ways. If I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I'll move to the other side of the street. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and tattoos, I'll move back to the other side of the street. None of us have pure thoughts, we all live in glass houses.
We might as well tackle all of these in order.
While it’s widely expected that commissioner Adam Silver will receive the 22 votes necessary to bar Sterling from any official association with the league for life, Cuban's above-quoted comments suggest he may well buck the trend and vote in Sterling's favor.
All the same, this could be a simple case of mistaken semantics.
It’s true there is no law—local, federal or otherwise—outlawing stupidity per se. At the same time, Silver’s gambit was never really about the law, so much as a statement about what kind of league he intends to steward going forward.
Therefore, Cuban could well side with those looking to ban Sterling, without it necessarily compromising his core, decidedly libertarian stance.
Or, Cuban’s comments could portend a vote cast more according to his underlying political philosophy than how he feels about Sterling personally.
Which is what makes his final remarks about the "black kid in a hoodie" so fascinating: In making such a self-aware observation, Cuban could be tacitly stating that, for him anyway, all of this Sterling business falls squarely in the realm of the First Amendment—not only that the Clippers' owner has the right to say the things he said, but that we as consumers can choose whether to purchase his product or not.
It also sounds, you know, kind of racist. And quite odd, given how jarringly it evokes Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen who was shot and killed in 2012 by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman, sparking one of the most polarizing murder trials in recent American history.
And that's before we even get to the "shaved head and tattoos" remark, which comes off as comparably insensitive.
Contrarian though he prides himself on being, Cuban clearly could've chosen his words more carefully here.
To be fair, Cuban did attempt to qualify these and other remarks during his Inc. interview:
“I know that I’m not perfect,” Cuban said. “While we all have our prejudices and bigotries, we have to learn that it’s an issue that we have to control, that it’s part of my responsibility as an entrepreneur to try to solve it, not just to kick the problem down the road.”
Carefully worded and seemingly genuine caveat aside, don't expect the fallout from this to subside any time soon.
Back to Sterling for a minute.
In his stunningly succinct synopsis of Sterling’s legal strategy, Basketball Insiders’ Nate Duncan lays out a sobering case for why the embattled Clippers owner may have backed himself into an inescapable corner:
In layman’s terms, the league’s decision gets treated by the courts as if the two parties already went to arbitration and the arbitrator ruled. When that happens, there is very limited recourse for the losing party. Sterling would have to argue one of four things: 1) there was corruption, fraud or misconduct in procuring the award, (2) partiality (i.e. bias) of the arbitrator, (3) the arbitrator exceeded his power, perhaps by showing a “manifest disregard for the law,” or (4) the award violates public policy. It is hard to see how Sterling might argue the decision falls into any of these exceptions, and even if he could the practical reality is that arbitration awards are almost never overturned.
What Cuban’s vote could represent, then, is less a criticism of the NBA for overstepping its bounds than an act of political conscience.
Then again, this is Mark Cuban we’re talking about here. Would it really surprise you if he showed up to the hearing and just stared angrily in Sterling's general direction for three straight hours?