Right to Privacy
The Donald Sterling Debacle is less about what is legal, and has far more to do with what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in contemporary America. The obvious lesson learnt is that Americans no longer accept the cowardly, despicable actions of racists. It has become cool to be tolerant in America, and this is great. Americans have made great strides in our effort to stamp out racism; in fact, we are leaps and bounds better off than we were even 20 years ago, but to say that racism has been stamped out is a naive. Many people, including myself, would argue that the recent incident involving the secret recording of Donald Sterling spewing hateful words in a private setting, which unbeknownst to him was being recorded, is an indication that racism not only exists, but is prevalent. If you don’t agree that he is a bad person, I feel bad for you. Donald sterling’s hateful words are a despicable representation of the sad condition of his sole; however, should Sterling’s private thoughts be lambasted on television? What type of precedent does this case set for the future of privacy in America?
When does a good story in the news trump a persons right to privacy? Since the advent of the internet, TMZ, and media gossip, has America catapulted itself into an era where TV ratings and profits trump a persons private, intimate conversations? California clearly has rules in regards to such situations, in fact California statutory law clearly forbids the recording of someone’s private remarks if consent has not been provided by the party being recorded. Therefore, although the private statements of Donald Sterling are now public, does the fact that these statements were once private lend any type of credence to a possible argument on behalf of Sterling that his right to privacy had been violated and that the NBA may not oust him due to the private nature of the recording? I will argue that Donal Sterling may have a viable defamation argument against V. Stiviano; however, his argument that the NBA somehow violated his right to privacy is not a good one. Here is why.
The federal government and state governments are considered to be “state actors,” and the United States Constitution along with the State Constitutions provide against state action that may infringe upon a person’s inalienable rights, such as a persons right to freedom of speech. The State of California may not go after Sterling for his hateful words. On the same token, state statutes guard against the proximate harm that may be caused by an illegal action, but within limits. The woman who recorded Sterling, V. Stiviano, may very well, eventually have charges brought up against her if it is in fact found that she willingly recorded Sterling without his permission and sold the recording to TMZ. The litigious ball will most likely stop rolling after after an action is brought against the person who recorded Sterling without his permission. Therefore, Adam Silver’s statement nailed the entire issue spot on. Silver claimed, “Whether or not these remarks were initially shared in private, they are now public, and they represent his views.”
In essence, neither Sterling, the NBA, nor a subsidiary of the NBA ever sought to record Sterling in public. They came across the recording the same way any private member of the public did, through the work of someone else acting in a possibly illegal fashion. The NBA, a private organization, reacted as any other private person would, with extreme dissatisfaction and contempt. Just as any tolerant person would kick a racist out of their house, the NBA is kicking sterling out of their home as well.