David Flynn: Donald Sterling Controversy Isn't A 1st Amendment Issue


The discussion surrounding the NBA and the actions taken against the Clippers owner is extensive. Here is the issue that a brilliant woman raised to me and I think it is spot on. While we call these individuals “NBA owners” we are leaving out a key word, franchise.

They are NBA franchise owners.

Now I am not aware of all the legal intricacies of the NBA constitution and various rights, but why is this different from any other franchise situation? If the issue is the amount of money these business owners invest in an NBA franchise I am not sure why that changes anything.

Are NBA franchise owners any different in principle from, say, McDonald’s franchise owners?

If a McDonald’s owner is found to be an embarrassment to the company McDonald’s corporate headquarters will look to terminate the relationship.

How is what Commissioner Adam Silver did substantively different? As an organization the NBA wants to protect its reputation and its working relationship with the players, who are simultaneously employees and product.

There is surely litigation in the offing that will bring further scrutiny to these matters, but as far as I can see it this is simply a matter of a franchise running afoul of the larger corporate aims, goals, and policies.