Losing star players to injury and trade, negative lawsuits surround team owner Donald Sterling, and analysts consider them to be one of the worst franchises in all sport. Let’s just say the Clippers are longing for some good PR. Somehow good PR and the Clippers just do not go hand-in-hand, especially in light of the one-game suspension of team commentators Ralph Lawler and Michael Smith for their “insensitive” comments about Iranians in last week’s game against Memphis.

In a game that featured the first-ever Iranian player, Hamed Haddadi, to play in the NBA, Lawler and Smith had about a 40-second verbal exchange on the subject, which one fan (who was watching on the Fox Sports telecast) found offensive, forcing him to lodge a formal complaint with the television network.

What the viewer found offensive is how Smith pronounced “Iranian.” (According to reports, he said “Eye-ranian”).

Since then, the blogosphere has been loaded with arguments on both sides. Some defended Lawler and Smith as two classy commentators with no ill intent, while others have sided with the “victim,” saying the comments were racist or bigoted.

While the merits of who is right or wrong in this issue can be argued ad nauseum, the ultimate issue is at what point do we, as a society, become so insensitive that we become afraid to speak. Sure, we should definitely respect the cultures and backgrounds of others, but at what cost? When is the price of walking on eggshells and watching what you say about others, all in the name of not hurting someone’s feelings, going to be too high?

We need to strike a balance between respecting the backgrounds of others without having to sacrifice the right to speak one’s mind. But, most important, we have to know the difference between a truly racially motivated comment and when one’s words are purely intended for jest.

Lawler and Smith’s comments, while perhaps not the greatest things to say, were far from being classified as a racial slur. Their one-game suspension was unwarranted.