Monday, September 25, 2017

Free Speech and the NFL

A little rant about a basic misunderstanding of free speech rights (and rights in general)

Let me start by saying that I am not a football fan. I had no idea who Colin Kaepernick was prior to his stunt (so maybe he accomplished his purpose, he is better known now).  Also let me add that I am as close to a First Amendment absolutist as you can get.  That said, the 1st Amendment is a limitation on government. It forbids the government from preventing you from speaking (or writing or expressing yourself in other non-verbal ways), or for punishing you for your speech subsequently. The Constitution originally only limited the Federal government from doing so, but via the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, the SCOTUS has taken the position that this imposes the entire Bill of Rights on the states as well (with the exception of the 2nd Amendment, apparently). Again, I like the Bill of Rights, I wish we actually used it more, so I have no objection to subjecting the states to its limitations on them. Many state constitutions have free speech provisions, as well.  But....

While we, as a country, have respect for free speech generally (Antifa, Berkeley and the like excepted), a position I heartily agree with, there is no guarantee of free speech in voluntary social arrangements such as employment, club membership, etc... all of which may impose conditions on its participants. At any point, team owners can demand that during the playing of a football game all players on the team are required to stand during the national anthem, especially if they find it is detrimental to their profits, and can discipline or fire players who refuse to comply. Those players are free to go kneel while burning US flags on their own time, but they are not free to do it on their employers time. This is NOT a restriction of their free speech rights.

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