I’ve spent a considerable amount of time reading about the controversy surrounding some professional players who “take the knee” during the playing the national anthem.
One may seriously question why we need a flag-raising and national anthem ceremony before every sporting event. And one may call into question the wisdom, expense and sanity of providing a choir, color guard and military fly-over before every professional athletic contest. But all good people of conscience should, I believe, call out the hypocrisy of authority figures who demand everyone stand during the playing of the national anthem. These authority figures are trying to have it both ways. They may insist that everyone must be required to stand during the national anthem, or they may insist that standing for the national anthem is a sign of respect — but they can not do both at the same time. If everyone is standing for the national anthem because they are required to, then it is not a question of respect; it turns into an issue of requirement.
I’m especially intrigued by the attempts of the defenders of the knee-benders to raise the principle of free speech. Has the politically correct crowd finally come around and embraced the first amendment? Don’t misunderstand me: I believe that players have the right not stand, and I respect Colin Kaepernick’s effort to raise attention to the issue of police violence against African-Americans. But are these free-speech advocates really willing live by their convictions? Are they ready to come to defense of other people who have made controversial remarks and have suffered consequences as a result? Would they, for example, come to the defense of Donald Sterling? His statements were racist and stupid, but he made them in the privacy of his own home. Would they be willing to defend Mr. Sterling’s rights of privacy, free speech and property in the face of nearly universal praise that was showered on NBA commissioner Adam Silver when he punished Mr. Sterling?
Or would they come to the defense of Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, who, in 2012, praised Fidel Castro and was suspended for five games as a consequence? Or would they come to the defense of Margaret Court, the former No. 1 tennis player in the world who became a Pentecostal minister and uses her position to condemn homosexuality? As far as I know, Ms. Court has not suffered any consequences as a result of her public statements, aside from the fact that some people want to remove her name from a stadium. But if authority figures, in the public or private realm, endeavored to punish Ms. Court by going after her money or property, or by restricting her civil liberties, would the defenders of the players in the NFL and NBL defend Ms. Court as well? Would they be willing to say that, as unconscionable as Ms. Court’s statements may be, she nevertheless has the right to say them?
Or, perhaps, we’ve entered an era in which we are obliged to distinguish between the oppressed and the oppressors, or the privileged and marginalized, and we must grant freedom of speech to one and restrict the speech of the other. If we have entered such an era, we have entered a truly dark time.
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