NBA, Where are the Questions About Privacy and HIPPA Rights?

There seems to be quite a disturbing trend when it comes to speaking about Donald Sterling, the one time-if the National Basketball Association has its way-owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. See if you bring up things like privacy and the possibility that his legal rights to privacy were somehow violated by a privately recorded conversation that somehow ended up on a tabloid, gossip website, you become a Sterling defender instead of just asking a basic question.

How can the NBA hang Donald Sterling out to dry based on a conversation taped in his house? The conversation with V. Stiviano shows that Sterling is a monster, a racist, a sexist and needs to be sent to Elba so Sterling should be thrown out. But why hasn’t the sports media asked the basic question, just how did the Sterling recording end up in Harvey Levin’s hands at TMZ?

Sportswriters are shills for sports. They are also in the words of one time New York Times columnist George Vescey apologists. Very rarely will you get someone who will not push the sport, pick whatever sport you want, agenda. The sports media doesn’t have to be told what to do. They know what the mission is; a sportswriter’s first obligation is to the sport then the newspaper readership, the TV viewing audience or the radio listeners. Their job is promotions not in depth investigative reporting.

Baseball Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog once referred to baseball sportswriters as “real baseball men.”

Apparently the results of Donald Sterling’s mental tests are now fair game in probate court and for radio talk show hosts. There seems to be a massive problem with that. Does the world have to know about the tests and whatever happened to The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) in regards to Sterling’s privacy, security and breach notification rules?

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Service’s website, “The HIPAA Privacy Rule provides federal protections for individually identifiable health information held by covered entities and their business associates and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. At the same time, the Privacy Rule is balanced so that it permits the disclosure of health information needed for patient care and other important purposes.

“The Security Rule specifies a series of administrative, physical, and technical safeguards for covered entities and their business associates to use to assure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information.”

So the question can be asked, has Donald Sterling’s HIPAA rights been violated with the public discussion of his competency test results been read on a radio show? Because Sterling is pursuing legal action against the NBA for stripping him of his franchise, based on the leaked audio to TMZ, Sterling’s mental state has become fair game in the court system.

Two doctors, presumably hired to Sterling’s estranged wife Shelly on behalf of the Sterling Trust, the entity that apparently owns the Clippers franchise, have sent letters to a judge in a probate court with their findings after a series of tests performed on Sterling.

Dr. Meril Platzer, in this letter to the court, said that Donald Sterling was unable to spell the word world backward, and was unable to continue to count when he got to 93 and did not know what season it was. He also was unable to draw a clock. Sterling scored a 23 which is at the bottom of the “normal” range, but Dr. Platzer felt the score was below normal” for an 80-year-old and his education.

Sterling is a lawyer.

“Based upon my evaluation performed on May 19, 2014, it is my opinion that Mr. Donald T. Sterling is suffering from cognitive impairment secondary to primary dementia Alzheimer’s disease,” Platzer wrote.

Platzer said that a PET scan of Sterling’s brain showed changes consistent with dementia.

“It is my opinion that Mr. Donald T. Sterling is unable to reasonably carry out the duties as trustee of the Sterling Family Trust as a result of, among other factors, an impairment of his level of attention, information processing, short term memory impairment and ability to modulate mood, emotional liability, and is at risk of making potentially serious errors of judgment,” Platzer said in his letter to the judge.

Dr. J. Edward Spar wrote in his opinion that “because of his cognitive impairment, Mr. Sterling is at risk of making potentially serious errors of judgment, impulse control, and recall in the management of his finances and his trust.”
The doctors apparently were hired by Shelly Sterling to prove that her husband had mental difficulties.

On July 7, Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas will begin listening to four days of testimony about Sterling’s mental state and will decide whether the probate court should get involved and order a completion of the Clippers sale from Sterling’s wife Shelly to Steve Ballmer for a reported $2 billion.

Sterling’s lawyers plan to come out swinging. There are a number of questions that sports journalists should have been pursuing instead of praising and lauding NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for his quick decision after a four day investigation of the Sterling audio. The scribes should have been hammering on the legality of the audio and the privacy issue instead of getting on their collective hand and knees and bowing to Silver. That’s what journalists are supposed to do.

A difficult question for Silver and the NBA, if Sterling is mentality challenged and you know that, how can you throw him out? It is a good thing AARP isn’t on the Sterling case because they might ask that kind of question about seniors and mental health. The sportswriters might think twice about asking about seniors and mental health and Sterling.

The sports journalists surrounding the NBA are just grateful that Silver acted and didn’t even ask whether NBA marketing partners bolting after the audio was released was the major reason for the Sterling ouster. Then there is the Shelly Sterling component, just how did Shelly go from a scarlet letter wearing pariah to the dame of the ball in an incredible time frame and get a done deal with Ballmer almost overnight? Enquiring minds needs to know to quote the old tag line of a National Enquirer promotional campaign.

The case will continue, the billable hours will stack up but sports journalism again has shown that it is not capable of asking key questions or what to ask key questions of say Harvey Levin or former NBA Commissioner David Stern who apparently did nothing upon learning of housing discrimination settlement and an Elgin Baylor-age discrimination suit against Sterling who by most accounts was a slumlord and a miser as an owner who tried not to pay fired coaches despite guaranteed contracts. Stern did nothing when the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden Chairman James Dolan and his general manager Isiah Thomas were found guilty of sexual harassment in 2007 and were ordered to pay one of the largest sexual harassment jury awards in United States history. Dolan’s crime in the case was firing Anucha Browne Sanders after she complained about sexual harassment. If Sterling decides to continue suing the NBA on antitrust grounds, the Dolan/Thomas Browne Sanders case may surface and questions need to be asked, why didn’t Stern administer any sought of sanctions against Dolan and Sterling? Valid questions that NBA writers never asked.

The scribes are happy that the nation’s long suffering drama of Donald Sterling is coming to an end and they can get back to watching games and ask the very basic questions of how did that guy get so free for that three point shot? Privacy? HIPPA? What’s that?

Evan Weiner can be reached at evanjweiner@gmail.com. His e-book, “The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition” is available (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/365489 ) and his e-books, America’s Passion: How a Coal Miner’s Game Became the NFL in the 20th Century, (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/americas-passion-how-coal/id595575002?mt=11 ), From Peach Baskets to Dance Halls and the Not-so-Stern NBA (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/from-peach-baskets-to-dance/id636914196?mt=11 ) and the reissue of the 2005 book, The Business and Politics of Sports (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/business-and-politics-of-sports-evan-weiner/1101715508?ean=2940044505094) and reissue of the 2010 e-book The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/business-politics-sports-selection/id771331977?mt=11 ) are available from e-book distributors globally. 2014 e-book, sports business 2010-14(https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/393652 ). The e-books are available from e-book distributors globally

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