There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the recorded comments made by Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Sterling apparently told a woman that he didn't want her to bring any black people to the games. As a result, the National Basketball Association decided to ban Sterling for life. That would prohibit him from attending any NBA events or having a role in any NBA activities. The league will also try to force Sterling to sell the team.
Many people are encouraged by the action the NBA is taking. Others might be worried that this amounts to an infringement on Sterling’s freedom of speech. So what do the principles of liberty have to say about this situation? Well, it all depends on what kinds of agreements are made between the NBA and team owners. At first glance it seems that the lifetime ban given to Sterling is well within the rights of the NBA. The Clippers team is simply a franchise of the NBA, after all. Additionally, there are apparently NBA rules that say the league can force the sale of a team if 75% of the team owners agree. If all of these terms were understood ahead of time, and we have no reason to doubt that they were, then this is all simply the result of the free market. No one’s rights have been infringed upon.
Results like this encourage me. Did Sterling say something stupid? Certainly. Was it racist? That seems to be the case. Did he get in trouble with the law? No! And that’s the beauty of it. Sterling will not get arrested. He will not go to jail. He will not have to pay a fine to L.A., California, or the United States government. He will simply suffer as a result of the free actions of individuals. You could say that there is a market for non-racist behavior because people put value on non-racist behavior. Racist behavior was observed and so market actors will now voluntarily avoid the racist. The entire situation is completely self-regulating without government interference.
Will the government try to get involved? Maybe. You can’t put anything past politicians since they are mostly attention whores. But we have seen a victory for the free market this week. A problem was solved without the forceful intervention of any meddling government. Let’s make it that way for every problem!