Thursday, September 26, 2013

September 26, 2013
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;
Read that quote. Read it again. That is the text of the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States. It is a critical piece of our national history. But it also seems to be one of the most misunderstood pieces of writing as well.

Last weekend football players at several universities had the initials "APU" written on some piece of their clothing. This was their version of "civil unrest" calling for changes to the structure of the NCAA.

Theirs is a valid point and one which is worth discussing. In fact, it has been discussed widely for a while now as many in the media are calling for some form of paying more to players.

This is not necessarily about that change, though, it is about a personal pet peeve of mine; freedom of speech and the misuse of this concept by just about everyone who talks about the subject.

After some Georgia Tech players were discovered wearing the letters (which stood for All Players United), the Tech head coach, Paul Johnson, responded that his players should have put the topic to a team vote before making such statements during a college football game.

Those that know me know I have chosen to avoid calling out journalists of late. Though I am not a member of "traditional" media, because I have acted as a member accepting some of the privileges as a member of the press, I try to be as respectful as possible.

In this case, though, I make an exception.

After Johnson talked about what his players should have done, a member of the press; a national writer; decided to make this statement via twitter:

Coach gets involved with free speech of his players.
That was Dennis Dodd. I see this countless times, by press as well as general public.

Someone gets fired for what they say, people respond "what about freedom of speech?!" Incensed that someone can suffer consequences for their words which they feel should be protected.

Read the words again:

Congress shall make no law
The first amendment says nothing about a boss, a coach, a parent or anyone else deciding to take action against a person for what they say.

My boss can fire me. A coach can kick you off of the team. Yes. For words. There is no amendment which says you have any right to say whatever you want without consequence. It simply says congress cannot make a law abriding free speech.

Did congress do that this week? No. A coach, whose job is to create a cohesive team atmosphere in which everyone works together to accomplish a goal said that team protocol was not followed. Johnson did not go to Washington D.C. and ask congress to punish his players.

What Dodd said is the same asinine stuff I see every time someone suffers a consequence for their choices. It frustrates me that the general public does not seem to understand this amendment that they want to avail themselves of at every opportunity.

But, seeing that the press, you know, those arbiters of what is supposed to be ACCURATE information, do not seem to understand the very law that allows their continued employment, how in the world is the public supposed to be informed?

Dodd should know better than that. And, you know what, he probably does, but acting as if someone rights have been violated gets a lot more "clicks" than the truth. Once again, news gets replaced by sensationalism.


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