Was it legal to record and release Sterling’s racist rant?

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
 Fans hold signs supporting the Los Angeles Clippers before their win against the Golden State Warriors on April 29, 2014. (Photo: Paul Vercammen/ CNN)

Fans hold signs supporting the Los Angeles Clippers before their win against the Golden State Warriors on April 29, 2014. (Photo: Paul Vercammen/ CNN)

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is banned from the NBA for life.

Sterling has confirmed it is his voice expressing racist views on audio of a private conversation that was leaked to the media. Some who have followed Sterling over the years say he had shown this side before and the leaked audio led to public outcry too loud for the NBA commissioner to ignore.

But what of the recording itself? Was it legal to record? To leak?

Here’s a look at some of the legal aspects of the recorded conversation between Sterling and his alleged mistress, V. Stiviano, who said she recorded the conversation.

Was it legal to record the conversation?

It depends what state you are in during the conversation. Most states require that only one person have knowledge that a conversation is being recorded for it to be legal.

But some states, like California, are “two-party consent” states where all of those involved in the conversation have to know they are being recorded for it to be legal. So depending on the location of the recording, if Sterling didn’t know he was being recorded, the audio might very well have been obtained illegally.

Stiviano’s lawyer, however, told the Los Angeles Times that Sterling knew he was being recorded.

The lawyer, Mac Nehoray, declined to tell the Times why Stiviano recorded the conversation, but said it was “by mutual agreement,” he told the Times.

Was it legal to leak the audio?

Though some may question the ethics of the act, if the audio was legally obtained, no laws were violated by leaking it to a reporter.

The reporters who received the audio and disseminated its contents to the public also did nothing illegal, said Joel Kurtzberg, a New York attorney with expertise in First Amendment and media law.

Stiviano’s lawyer has said that Stiviano was not the one who released the audio to the media.

Was this a First Amendment violation?

Have Sterling’s First Amendment rights been violated? No, Kurtzberg said.

No one is questioning that Sterling has the right to speak as he pleases, but the public and the NBA are also free to condemn what he says, Kurtzberg said.

Marc J. Randazza, a Las Vegas-based First Amendment attorney, wrote in an op-ed for CNN that the NBA is private club and can punish Sterling as it sees fit.

But, Randazza wrote, it was morally wrong to leak the audio and violate Sterling’s privacy.

We all say things in private that we may not say in public, he said, but “we now live in a world where if you have any views that are unpopular, you now not only need to fear saying them in public, but you need to fear saying them at all — even to your intimate friends.”

LINK: NBA bans Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life, imposes $2.5M fine


  • Eric Ernst

    First of all, it was NOT a “rant”.
    Second of all, it was a PRIVATE conversation that never had his permission to go take public.
    Third; This is America…not Venezuala, Irag, Iran… you CANNOT force anyone to sell, if they don’t wish too.
    Fourth; the NBA Commissioner is a puppet to placate the black majority which comprises the NBA.
    Fifth: The NBA KNEW about Donald Sterling, LONG before now. IF they were offended, it should have taken action then, not now, over a private conversation that NEVER had his permission to tape.
    Sixth: Sterling has the financial where with all, to take this to court and most likely win!
    Seventh; The “Pandora Box” you are wishing to open on Donald Sterling, may very well come back to bite you, when you least expect it!

  • Anonymous

    Yeah. Stiviano’s lawyer was there when it was recorded. He KNOWS it was mutual consent. And of course SHE didn’t release it to the press. No way. That’s cause her lawyer says so.

    What a farce.

  • albert8184

    I agree with Kareem…. the person belongs in jail.

    Stiviano’s lawyer doesn’t know anything. He wasn’t there. He only has HER version of events. She recorded it secretly and she released it to the press through a friend. She was setting up the race card for her upcoming litigation with Sterling’s wife.

Comments are closed.