Donald Sterling won’t go away. After the appalling tape recorded statement was released, he made it worse by agreeing to be interviewed by Anderson Cooper, and now his lawyers are saying that he will fight the fine imposed on him/attempt to force him to sell the L.A. Clippers by the NBA. I wrote about it in detail last month. The Washington Post published an article focusing on Mark Cuban, the controversial owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Cuban was in Nashville talking to GrowCo, a tech-centric networking gathering. On the topic of bigotry, he stated that “If I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I’ll move to the other side of the street. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and tattoos, I’ll move back to the other side of the street. None of us have pure thoughts; we all live in glass houses.” I wonder if the NBA will fine/sanction Cuban.
Recently, the Times of Israel reported that multiple lawsuits have been filed in Spain after the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team defeated the Real Madrid team to win the Euroleague championship. Over 17,500 tweets containing anti-Semitic comments, such as “Jews to the ovens” or “Jews to the showers” were posted, alluding to the Holocaust. An expletive anti-Semitic hashtag in the messages briefly became one of the most popular keywords on Twitter in Spain.
Closer to Birmingham, an interesting article was published on The Delaware Employment Law Blog concerning the termination of an employee as the result of a Facebook post. In Michigan, Ms. Butler, a Michigan attorney, was placed on the assignment list by the county probate court. She posted a comment on Facebook criticizing the Probate Clerk’s office about its “inefficiency” on a case she had been assigned and mistakenly identified 2 people as employees. One of the employees complained to the court administrator, and Butler was removed from the assignment. She tried to get back on the list several times, but was unsuccessful. She filed a lawsuit alleging a number of constitutional claims. All but one was dismissed: claiming unlawful retaliation in violation of the First Amendment. Amazingly, the post “disappeared” and no one saw it. Ms. Butler alleged that it had been “deleted” from her FB account, the employee who saw it never saved it, and most improbably, the court administrator never saw the post before removing Butler from the assignment list.
Practice pointer. Employers: if you take disciplinary action based on a social media post, it is important to try and get a copy of the post and preserve it. Here, the plaintiff said it was deleted (raising questions as to why a plaintiff can pursue a claim after she deleted evidence), the administrator took the word of an employee about what was seen, and even the court did not have an opportunity to review the post. Although I disagree with the results, it does emphasize the points that once litigation is commenced, there are no guaranteed results no matter how strongly you feel about your case, a great deal of time and money are spent on litigation, and the case may end up making the news.
In New Hampshire, Robert Copeland, 82, resigned as the police commissioner of Wolfeboro after using an obscenity and the “N” word to describe President Obama. A resident overheard him use this language at a restaurant, and complained to town officials. In a defiant email, Copeland wrote to two town commissioners: “I believe I did use the “N” word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse…For this, I do not apologize-he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.”
Practice pointer. Anything you say/do in public can and will be used against you. To write an email trying to explain what happened makes a bad situation even worse. Although many of us have heard/seen/read about similar conduct in Birmingham and in Alabama, this occurred in New Hampshire. Remember that there may be freedom of speech, but not freedom from consequences.