Joseph’s Morning Mailbag: Donald Sterling, Ukraine, Movies, TV, & More!


Life has been crazy lately. We are pregnant with our first baby, sold a house, bought a house, moved, and I’ve finished law school. So there’s a lot of topics I’ve wanted to blog about, but haven’t been able to. In order to catch up, I decided to bring back the mailbag style. Some of the questions below are from real friends and readers. Some of the names have been made up so I could talk about what I wanted to talk about. Other names and locations have been changed to protect the innocent and/or provide alliterative effect. Enjoy! (Shout out to Jeremy Wilson for the awesome new logo above!)

So are you excited about being a lawyer now? – Andrew from Alaska

An excellent question. While I could not be happier to begin defending the freedoms of everyday citizens practicing constitutional law at the ACLJ working on cases like this one, I am a littler nervous about what the day-to-day will be like. I’m hoping it’s a lot more like this than like this.

(Sidenote: You should seriously click both of those links above. They are wonderful for completely different reasons. Here’s the backstory on the NY Times deposition video.)

Any thoughts on the Donald Sterling situation? Was the NBA’s response fair and proportionate? Does he have any legal arguments against their action? Was it the right decision? – Banks from Boulder and Cyle from Chicago

I received numerous questions about this. It’s one of those topics that has been fairly exhausted by the internet, bloggers, TV pundits, etc. Most things that could be said and written on this topic have been said in about a million different ways. But I think a few salient points are most compelling to me…

Jason Whitlock at made some compelling arguments about the dangers of internet mob outrage, thinking Donald Sterling’s recorded private thoughts make him an exception among NBA franchise owners, and thinking removing him from the NBA solves systemic racism. Whitlock makes some compelling arguments. But Sterling still had to go.

My friend and colleague David French at National Review made one of the most concise and clear arguments for why Donald Sterling had to go.  “First, unlike many recent controversies, this case was not about words or political beliefs alone. […] Mr. Sterling has a long and shameful history of racist and abusive acts, resulting in, among other things, substantial settlements in response to race-discrimination claims, allegations of unprofessional behavior made by a number of players, and a history of poor treatment of his former GM, Elgin Baylor, one of the league’s pioneering black superstars. Second, prior to the NBA’s announcement, the league had actually empowered Mr. Sterling. […] Third, Sterling’s latest outburst was motivated by none other than Magic Johnson’s presence at a Clippers game. Magic Johnson is more than “just” one of the greatest players in league history. Johnson, along with Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan, is more responsible for increasing the value of the Clippers franchise than Donald Sterling is. […] In other words, Sterling was a racist, discriminatory free-rider on the talents and effort of the very man he wanted excluded from Clippers games.”

Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano

– Legally, the NBA had broad power to do any number of things. Some people talk about dangerous precedents this could set, but many have appropriately pointed out how Sterling is radically different from many others.  Also, who would this set a dangerous precedent for? Other owners. And they would be the one’s who ultimately have to vote to force Sterling to sell his team. Sure, many other high-profile owners of teams and CEOs of company probably say things at least this bad behind closed doors with loved ones, mistresses, whatever. But, regardless of what the new commissioner said about this punishment only being for this occasion, it was not. The league also said they suspended ZBo from Game 7 for only that push/punch alone. But if LeBron had done that same thing, there’s no chance he would have been suspended for a Game 7. He was suspended because he was ZBo and his past which he’s tried to overcome.

Donald Sterling was punished appropriately because of who he was in the past AND because he has not changed at all. Is he a boogeyman whose punishment makes our society less systemically racist? No. But it’s an important step and an important sign. And, fundamentally, it had to happen because of the structure of the NBA and the power he held contractually over his players who justifiably no longer wanted to play and make him money.

As for my Memphis Grizzlies, the wound is still too fresh to say much, other than I’m extremely proud of their season and always happy when the magic of Memphis is displayed for the world to see.

What are your thoughts on the current state of U.S. foreign policy, especially as it relates to what has been happening in Ukraine and with Russia? – Paul from Portland

This is a really good question. I’m going to primarily defer to two excellent editorials from the past week.

In The Washington Post, David Ignatius does an excellent job of framing how President Obama has made some foreign policy obstacles worse by seemingly spending “more time thinking about what to say than what to do.”

In The Economist, the editorial board ponders, “What would America fight for?” “Each situation is different, but in the echo-chamber of global politics they reinforce each other. The Asians note that in 1994, in exchange for surrendering nuclear weapons, Ukraine received a guarantee from Russia, America and Britain that its borders were safe. The Baltic countries remember the red lines crossed in Syria. Arab princes and Chinese ambassadors count the Republican senators embracing isolationism. Together, these retreats plant a nagging suspicion among friends and foes that on the big day America simply might not turn up. […] [A]merica could never sustain the extraordinary heights of global dominance it attained with the collapse of the Soviet Union. As China grew into a giant, it was bound to want a greater say. And the president has often made the right call: nobody thinks he should have sent troops to Crimea, despite the breaking of the 1994 agreement. Yet Mr Obama has still made a difficult situation worse in two ways. First, he has broken the cardinal rule of superpower deterrence: you must keep your word. In Syria he drew “a red line”: he would punish Bashar Assad if he used chemical weapons. The Syrian dictator did, and Mr Obama did nothing. In response to Russia’s aggression, he threatened fierce sanctions, only to unveil underwhelming ones. He had his reasons: Britain let him down on Syria, Europe needs Russian gas, Congress is nervous. But the cumulative message is weakness. Second, Mr Obama has been an inattentive friend. He has put his faith in diplomatic coalitions of willing, like-minded democracies to police the international system. That makes sense, but he has failed to build the coalitions. And using diplomacy to deal with the awkward squad, such as Iran and Russia, leads to concessions that worry America’s allies. Credibility is about reassurance as well as the use of force.”

We live in a dangerous world. Whether it’s national security measures or foreign policy decisions, while President Obama’s rhetoric and priorities seem very different from President Bush at times, his steps taken when confronted with global hot spots like Ukraine have been quite similar as when Russia invaded Georgia in the waning days of President Bush’s second term in 2008. But these articles point out well how the west, including the U.S., appears weak. That’s a problem I hope President Obama addresses in his final years in office and is one tackled by our new President elected in 2016.

Another interesting development recently has been the news that China’s economy could pass the U.S. economy as the largest in the world as quickly as the end of this year.

Have you seen this first trailer for Fox’s new “Gotham” yet? What do you think? – Brian from Biloxi

My goodness. Thanks so much for sending this along. I got caught in the chaos and missed this premiere. I was skeptical when I’d heard about this. But this trailer looks phenomenal. Ben McKenzie, Jada Pinkett Smith, and more starring in the origins of Detective Jim Gordon in the aftermath of Bruce Wayne’s parents getting murdered and the origin stories of The Penguin, Catwoman, The Riddler, Poison Ivy, and Batman? It looks just gritty enough and just fun enough to be a potentially great TV show. I never watched Smallville (I was always more of a Christopher Reeve-movie, The Adventures of Lois & Clark, and the old TV show kind of guy), but I’m all in on this. Hopes and expectations are high. Hopefully it doesn’t disappoint.

Bauer begging

What are your thoughts on Hollywood tackling the latest political issues surrounding national security, like Captain America 2’s focus on big data collection and 24’s new season tackling drones? – Larry from Lexington

I’ve been busy and need to catch up on movies. But as I wrote yesterday, the return of 24 was too big to pass up. For my full thoughts on the premiere, check out our review yesterday. I absolutely love how they are tackling the issue of drones, their effectiveness, and the inherent dangers if there is not appropriate checks and balances and oversight. 24 is also tackling WikiLeaks type data exposure and its potential dangers for our national security interests, although balanced with plot lines like those in Captain America (which I LOVED, by the way… perhaps my favorite Marvel movie yet… although time-traveling X-Men here in a couple weeks will likely trump it because… well… time travel!) showing the dangers of data collection infringing on core freedoms and being used for evil instead of good.

All of that to say, Hollywood is tackling these issues well. They seem to be showing that the corrupt and power-hungry, naturally sinful human beings using these programs are the ones causing destructive and freedom-infringing uses. However, this great power which can be used for good can also very easily be used for much larger-scale evil than previously. It’s a debate we need to be having in society, and it’s a healthy one. It’s also an inevitable one and any time mass-media is constructively and fairly contributing to that debate, we are witnessing a modern-day miracle.

Watched any WWE  pro wrestling since WrestleMania XXX? – Gabe from Gatlinburg 

I have not. With finishing law school, selling a house, buying a house, and moving, I’ve been pretty busy. I’m behind on Mad Men and Game of Thrones, so I definitely haven’t found any time for WWE. But whether you like professional wrestling or not, if you are a human being with feelings, you MUST watch this video before. Get the tissues out. This is why the WWE has my utmost respect. Whether it’s John Cena setting the record for most Make-a-Wish grants done in history or this story below, you’ll see why.


Posted on by Joseph Williams in Basketball, Featured, Movies, Politics, Television

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