Thursday, October 3, 2013

Free Speech and football

It's time to call out Pat Forde.

Last week he spoke openly on twitter about how players from Georgia Tech were having their "free speech" rights trampled by their coach.

For those that do not remember, there were several players on the team that wore "APU" on an article of clothing during their game. APU stood for "All Players United" and it was a message that there are players across the nation who are starting to unite with the common goal of reaping more of the reward that stems from the lucrative television contracts across college athletics.

Now, first of all, as I pointed out last week, this is NOT a free speech issue. The government did not create a law or charge the football players with a crime. Their coach made a statement about the inappropriateness of making such individualistic statements of a quasi-political nature without running it through the team. You know what a team is right? A group of people who get together to work towards a common goal. In this case that would be winning football games.

Well, if Forde wants to say that these young men have the "right" to say what they want without coach interference, then he MUST also stand by the right of the Mississippi football players to make the comments they made in theater class.

That's the trick about a sports writer trying to delve into the morass of ethics involved when they think they know what they are talking about.

Free speech is an important and vital concept to what the United States is all about. Nonetheless, it does NOT guarantee that there will be no consequences for your words or actions. The first amendment merely guarantees that there can be no criminal charge against a person for speech that falls under its protection.

The players at Georgia Tech did not have their first amendment rights violated. They were scolded (and probably negatively physically disciplined with some extra running).

But Forde stuck his foot in his mouth and equated the coaches reaction to a violation of their rights. If that is the case, then he must also come down on the side of the Ole Miss players. Regardless of just how odious some speech is, we don't get to choose which views are "okay" and which views are wrong.

Personally, I do not agree with what the Mississippi players said or how they acted. They were immature and only strengthened a long-held stereotype about athletes; especially football players. Nonetheless, they absolutely have a first amendment right to their words and actions.

Fortunately, the coaches are not restricting their RIGHT to speak their mind, only providing consequences for acting in a manner deemed to be unbecoming conduct. That is his right as coach.

Somehow, I am guessing Forde will not pipe in on this topic as it would only further entrench the hypocrisy with which he spoke in the first place.

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