Swickard: Political disrespect and making positive change

© 2017 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.   “I think Dr. King, if he were alive today, he wouldn’t disrespect the flag or the anthem; he would use his words and his voice to send a message for positive change.” Kimberly Guilfoyle
             The National Football League has players who are taking a knee during the national anthem. They are expressing their displeasure with American injustice. Worse, young people who are just imitating these icons are being disrespectful to our country without understanding the issues.
            My response has been to shun them. For this reason, I am not watching NFL games this year. Know this: if a high school or college team has players disrespect our flag and anthem, I will be out of that stadium quickly.
            It is the right of those athletes to make these gestures. And it is my right to not give them any money or attention. Should there be a law against disrespecting our country? No, each of us has free speech rights but we cannot exercise those rights without responsibility for our actions.
            There is only one of me so just one person shunning the NFL will have no effect. Still, it is my choice to respond. They don’t have to even acknowledge my actions.
            I am curious why they think this will address their perceived injustices and make changes. It would seem that we as a nation must make positive changes if our nation is to prosper.
            The world is so much better because of our country and the leaders of our country including the founders. As I wrote previously in this column they were all imperfect people. However, we are better off because of them. But, of course, we can always improve our country.
            In the above quote, there is the thought that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have used his words, his voice to make a positive change. I like that. We do need positive change in this society that has fallen into the grasp of hate speech and fake news.
            Dr. King died in 1968. Unfortunately, his greatest thought seems to be forgotten: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
            These protests and much of the politics of our society today is about the color of skin and not the content of character. We do have voices telling us the way to make our country better.
            Morgan Freeman said, “Dr. Martin Luther King is not a black hero. He is an American hero.” He also said, “I am going to stop calling you a white man and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.”
            That is a direction for change that will make a difference. Let us not divide our country and the people of our county. Rather we need to come together as a nation. We must do so one citizen at a time.

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The market will sort this out

© 2016 Jim Spence - Freedom of speech is a wonderful concept. The reason you know freedom of speech is great, is because the countries you don’t want to visit let alone live in, tend to ban freedom of speech. Not surprisingly, the worst nations on earth employ the harshest punishments whenever someone says something the dictators don’t like.
The 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is pretty simple. It protects American citizens from our government. It reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
How far does the guarantee of freedom of speech go? It is an interesting question to ask. Courts have established the idea that yelling “fire” in a crowded theater and causing a stampede, is not protected speech. However, organizing a political rally and chanting, “Down with this, or down with that,” is protected. The dividing line seems to be when people begin to infringe on the property rights and/or personal safety of others.
Again, because freedom of expression is a delicate matter, the courts almost always side with the citizens instead of the government, unless free speech endangers the safety of others. Of course, rioting protesters who destroy the property of others, are not exercising free speech, they are committing crimes.
This brings us back to the increasing presence of the culture war in America. Half the players on Baltimore and Jacksonville took a knee this morning before the game in London. It seems that the NBA and NFL think it is OK for players to exercise freedom of expression……sometimes. Taking a knee during the national anthem is OK, but certain forms of celebration, say after scoring a touchdown etc. is deemed illegal. 
It is important to remember that sporting events are not peaceable assemblies, they are entertainment events with customers paying to be there. Interestingly, the NFL players union has decided that players decisions to engage in political protest during the national anthem should be protected.
Let’s be clear about the customers here. Tens of millions of people find the taking of a knee during the national anthem to be offensive, just as tens of millions of people find both racist rhetoric and race baiting rhetoric offensive.
Do players have the right to offend during the course of business with customers? Do private businesses have the right to fire people for exercising freedom of speech, if the exercise itself financially damages their business? We are not talking about a government attempting to ban free speech……we are talking about private sector interests being allowed to protect their interests by keeping their customers happy with the overall business transaction/entertainment experience. These are interesting questions.
The courts have held that businesses have the right to fire people for offending their customers. ESPN fired Curt Schilling because he tweeted, not during a broadcast, but on his own time, the idea that he thinks men should pee and poop in the men’s room.
The point here is actually pretty simple. Americans all have a right to offend our elected officials, but Americans also have the right to protect their businesses from moron employees who insist on offending the customers. This explains why Colin Kaepernick does not have a job. He runs off customers in droves. If I have an employee who runs off my customers, I am going to fire that person.
It is going to be fun to watch all of this play out. NFL and NBA owners have shown themselves to be quite tolerant of political speech being inserted into their business relationships with customers. We will see how far this goes now that it looks like the NFL is finally starting to pay a price for allowing millionaire employees to question the fundamental fairness of American citizens who are sitting in the stands with expensive ticket stubs in their pockets.
Never one to keep his mouth shut, Donald Trump has weighed in. He suggested that employees who offend customers should be fired for doing so. Sounds like Trump is siding with the customers. And the response from both the NBA and the NFL was swift. It seems that when it comes to answering the question of whether or not America is basically fair, the debate is on and the NFL thinks the national anthem is a suitable forum. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who makes about $15,000 per concussion each season, suggests that it is Trump who is divisive. This seems strange. Trump is simply suggesting that the players who insist that America is unfair actually created the "divide." Trump has sided with the tens of millions of fans who are offended because they think all in all, America is pretty darned fair.
How did we get here? Essentially, these cultural wounds were healing nicely until Mr. Obama came along. Obama’s primary emphasis in governing was to encourage socialists to use phony racism accusations as battering rams against anyone resisting the failed policies of socialism. It looks like the cancer of the Obama era is in stage four in America. It is my prediction that professional sports businesses that allow millionaire employees to offend their patrons, will find that their businesses deteriorate. It is already happening. A steady decline from here seems imminent because no business can allow its employees to routinely insult the intelligence of its customers without paying a steep price.
What should we do? Let's sit back and watch. Let the whining millionaires galvanize around freedom of expression during the course of business, and let the customers who disagree, weigh alternative entertainment options. The free market for expensive tickets and commercial laden television broadcasts will sort this out, just like the market sorted out the competing views in the 2016 election. It is now the NFL and NBA that want to sew politics into the fabric of their businesses. We shall see how that works out for them.
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