<b>The Sterling affair</b>

EDITOR: Let's stipulate that Donald Sterling is a racist jerk, despite his protestations to the contrary. It's not hard to agree that the sentiments he expressed to his girlfriend are repugnant and have no place in our society.

What bothers me about the public shaming he has received and the punishment meted out by the NBA is that the secretly recorded conversation in which he expressed his repugnant views was private. Is there no difference any more between public and private speech? Should we all be vulnerable to losing our jobs or our property because of things that we say in private? Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player, said of the Sterling incident, "We cannot tolerate institutional racism." I agree, but how is a private conversation institutional?

I have no love of Sterling; he has left a well-documented trail of racist actions and comments in his wake. And the NBA can set its rules and administer punishments as it sees fit. But it concerns me that a person can express his views, however abhorrent, in a private conversation and then, when they're broadcast against his will, be held accountable by the world at large with real economic consequences.

It's a precedent that I think should give us pause.