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Business Ethics in the News
CLIPPERS: Racism in the Corner Office
Tuesday, Apr. 29, 2014
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is under heavy fire this week, after an audio recording was released of Mr. Sterling making a series of racist remarks. The NBA responded with a swift investigation, and announced today that Mr. Sterling is to be fined $2.5 million and banned from all NBA events for life. This is not the first time Mr. Sterling has been accused of discrimination. In 2009, Mr. Sterling was sued for housing discrimination, resulting in a settlement of over $2.7 million. He was also sued for racial discrimination by the former general manager of the Clippers, Elgin Baylor. The release of the recording, along with the public outcry, raises the question: can a person who holds racist views own and operate a company in the United States today?
Kirk: A generation ago we may have looked the other way on the attitudes, beliefs, and behavior of CEOs and owners, but today we are more concerned with the private behavior and beliefs of the CEO. We recognize that these things are models for behavior for all employees in the organization and directly impact the culture of the company. From a purely business standpoint, these comments will cause the organization to lose a great deal in sponsors, fan base, and even players, if corrective action isn’t taken. The only surprise here is that this hasn’t come to a head sooner.
Patrick: To answer the question, a racist can own a company—Mr. Sterling proved this to be the case for the past 33 years—but it doesn’t mean they should. Based on Mr. Sterling’s past, as well as the comments he made about the team’s players, it was inevitable that his views would result in discrimination. The line I fear we are in danger of crossing is that of becoming the “thought police;” that is, punishing discriminatory thoughts instead of discriminatory actions.
A Framework for Thinking Ethically (Markkula Center)
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