Donald Sterling, The NBA, The Clippers, and The Zipper

Have you been following the news in the NBA this week?

I’m not talking about the playoffs, wins, losses, or Lebron James.  This week, the news has been filled with reports and opinions about Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling.  I don’t know all the details, but Sterling apparently made some significant racial comments that were caught on tape and broadcast across the country.

His comments set off a firestorm of calls for him to be removed from the NBA.  His own players protested before their last game by taking off their Clippers shirts and wearing black wristbands and socks.  Sponsors have quickly been pulling away from the Clippers organization unwilling to be associated with a team owned by such a bigot.

Clearly, Sterling’s remarks were completely wrong, and the NBA has dealt swiftly by banning him from the NBA for life and fining him $2.5 million (which is the maximum fine permitted by the league constitutional bylaws).

Do you think Donald Sterling would like to take back his words?  Do you think he was really thinking when he spoke?

It’s easy to point the finger at public figures like Donald Sterling – after all, leaders are expected to be above reproach, and they should know better.  And they are easy targets.  Upon further thought, I know we’re all guilty of this kind of speaking without thinking.  Hopefully, we don’t say things with such hatred, but I’m sure we say things we regret.

I was reminded today of a time when I was in junior high, and I was at a dress rehearsal for a musical that I was in at our church. Believe it or not, I was selected to sing a solo (who would have thought).  As a result, I was equipped with a wireless microphone. During one of our breaks while I was in the men’s room, I said some things that I later regretted.  When I returned from the break, I discovered from one of the sound people that my initial words were shared loud and clear in the sanctuary thanks to the wonders of wireless technology.  Thankfully, they quickly muted my microphone.  But it didn’t stop the feeling of embarrassment and regret that swept over me when I found out.

In all the cases above (including mine), the regret came after being caught.  Did we ever stop to think that God can hear us even if no one else can?  Did we ever stop to examine our hearts?  I’m reminded of two passages that speak to this. First, in the first few verses of Psalm 139, we’re told that not only does God know our words, but He even knows our thoughts:

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.  Psalm 139:1-4

Secondly, in the first chapter of James, instructions our given that we should be slow to speak:

My dear brothers, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.  James 1:19-21

Sounds easy?

I’m not so sure.

I know that my thoughts and words are not always what they should be. So where do I go from here? I think it starts with being more in tuned to God, becoming more aware of times we think and say things that aren’t appropriate, and seeking God to help make a change.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Have you tasted shoe leather recently?  How’s it taste?  What did you do to get that taste out of your mouth?