No new free agents will pick the Clippers, and no one will agree to be traded there. The Clippers’ impending free agents will leave. Its stars will demand to be traded, and if they aren’t, they’ll undermine the new coach. Fans will organize a boycott, and game attendance will drop off; and so on. In the end, Sterling will wind up with a roster of 12 desperate, minimally talented white guys. The franchise will be such a complete disaster that eventually he’ll have no choice but to wash his hands of the whole mess. He’ll see all this coming, of course, but because they’re not forcing him to, he’ll put the team up for sale voluntarily. Perhaps no one will bid until the price drops to a fire-sale level, at which point Oprah and her consortium of rich friends, as rumored, can step in and buy the club. Voilà: no tedious lawsuits and everyone’s happy, including big bad Don, because he’ll realize a humongous profit no matter the selling price. The market will work, NBA. I’m just saying… It was quite a week for legal issues in America the free. First, the Supreme Court ruled that it’s fine to stop and search your vehicle if an anonymous tipster phones you in as drunk, even though the police have satisfied themselves that your driving’s fine. (Scalia’s scathing dissent is worth a read.) Then, to its shame, the Court refused to hear a challenge to the clause in the National Defense Authorization Act that allows the president, at his discretion, to unilaterally impose indefinite detention on anyone, without access to courts, if he believes they have any connection with terrorism—which basically amounts to on his say-so. The non-ruling was based on the Court’s opinion that the plaintiffs had no legal standing, because they hadn’t themselves been detained. Which launches us into a Catch-22 world: the Supreme Court’s decision precludes challenges before detention takes place, but once a person is detained into military custody under the NDAA, the law explicitly denies them any access to the courts. But if you missed these assaults on liberty, that’s understandable, because the week’s news was dominated by endless coverage of the Donald Sterling affair. The media took a 9.5-minute private-turned-public phone conversation—that’s actually mostly about a troubled relationship—and whittled it down to a few ugly but hardly horrendous words about race. Then it used them to pillory the man and call for the NBA to “do something” about this disgusting basketball team owner. I am not a Sterling apologist. He seems a nasty sort, and he has a shady history. I’ll also leave aside questions concerning violations of privacy, how much the girlfriend made from selling the tape, and whether we should engage in such self-righteous finger-wagging about a relatively petty offense. (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took those on for us, very eloquently.) Nor do I wish to debate whether a lifetime ban from the NBA and a multimillion-dollar fine are appropriate punishments. What I think we should be looking at, and what the media are ignoring, is the question of whether a man can be deprived of his property because others don’t like his opinions. That’s what the NBA is proposing to do by attempting to force Sterling to sell a team that he lawfully owns. Apparently, the league has some agreed-upon right to do this if 75% of the other owners vote for it—they’re in conclave even as you read this. But that’s coercive and seems to me a dangerous precedent to set. What’s to prevent a cabal of future owners from forcing out someone because he’s too successful? And if Sterling is as hard-headed as he seems to be, we’re in for years of legal wrangling. To avoid all that, I have a modest proposition for the NBA: just walk away and let the free market operate. If they can find the brains to do that, then I predict: Sterling’s coach, Doc Rivers, will quit. And no respectable coach will want the job, so Sterling will be forced to hire someone incompetent.