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Senator’s tweets warn of a “slippery slope’’ as owner is banned from NBA

Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City

Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City

Reacting to news that owner Donald Sterling had been banned for life from the NBA following revelations of racist comments, Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward took to Twitter to defend the disgraced owner’s right to his opinion, however objectionable.

Ward, a Lake Havasu City Republican, initially expressed skepticism at the punishment handed down by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday morning.

She later tweeted that she doesn’t agree with Sterling’s beliefs but will “fight for #FreeSpeech.”

“If you offend, I guess you should expect to be stripped of your property & banned for life #PoliticallyCorrect #WhereAreWeHeaded,” Ward first tweeted after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Sterling’s punishment.

Audio released by TMZ revealed an argument between Sterling and his girlfriend in which the Clippers’ owner said it bothered him that she brought African Americans to basketball games.

Silver, operating under the guidance of the NBA’s private constitution, banned Sterling from any association with the league and the Los Angeles Clippers franchise, which he owns, and fined Sterling $2.5 million, the maximum allowed under the constitution, Silver said during a Tuesday press conference.

He said he’ll also urge the NBA board of governors – comprised of all 30 NBA team owners, though Sterling is now banned from attending the board’s meetings – to vote to oust Sterling as an owner, essentially forcing the sale of his Clippers franchise. A three-fourths vote of the board is required for such action to occur, Silver said.

Ward later told the Arizona Capitol Times that while she doesn’t condone Sterling’s racist comments, she objects to the media “hoopla” and “pile on” of reports about Sterling’s comments, made in private and illegally recorded and leaked to the media.

“The very first tweet was actually meant as a warning to people to watch what they say, because if you offend the wrong person anything can happen to you,” Ward told the Capitol Times. “Anybody could be listening, anybody could be taping, anybody could take it out of context, and then you’re in the hot seat. That’s why I had concerns about whether I should call you…. You never know what’s going to come out in the paper.”

The senator actively engaged others on Twitter who commented on her own musings.  Ward tweeted in replies that it was a “slippery slope” to punish someone by forcing the sale of their privately owned business.

Responding to others who questioned why it appeared she was coming to Sterling’s defense, Ward said the matter at hand was freedom of speech.

“.@Marshall86 What is accepted & tolerated? #WhoDecides? #Rights&Responsibilities Don’t agree with him but fight for #FreeSpeech,” Ward tweeted.

Ward later said she personally believes anyone can say anything they want, “even if I think they’re completely wrong.”

“There should be some shred of privacy left for people, because believe me, nobody’s perfect,” Ward told the Capitol Times. “And who gets to decide what’s offensive, what’s not, who’s going to be attacked, who’s not? Right now the media gets to decide and put the spin on it.”

A series of conversations on Twitter, in which some users sent Ward links to stories explaining the NBA’s legal right to punish Sterling how it saw fit – including an ESPN analysis of how Sterling could be punished based on the rules in the league’s constitution – appeared to change the senator’s tune, at least about the lifetime ban and potential sale of the team.

Ward later tweeted that the NBA was “likely within their rights” to hand down its judgment of Sterling.

But she also expressed amusement at the outraged reactions to her own tweets about Sterling, and suggested that there was a double standard at play.  She compared the comments Sterling made in private to recent remarks by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in which he was recorded warning that Israel could become “an apartheid state.”

“It’s being treated in two completely different ways, and I just think it’s a slippery slope taking private conversations and turning them against people,” Ward said. “That’s a part of what’s frustrating to me, is how much hay is made out of everyone single one of these episodes that occur, if the person saying it is not in a certain group or class then they’re free to be attacked and brought down.”

Ward also had a message for those who tweeted comments blasting her own remarks as insensitive.

“With the #tolerant comments I am getting, I have a good guess as to #WhereWeAreHeaded – apparently #ToleranceIsForOthers not the #tolerant,” she tweeted.

3 comments

  1. Sorry, I have no comment. I don’t want to offend and have all my stuff taken from me.

  2. When you are a public figure and belong to an association with rules, and break those rules, you can be punished. That is what he did. There is no free speech argument.

  3. I find it sad that an elected official doesn’t understand what free speech is and how it does not apply to private companies.

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