Sort out the NFL protests on the flag and racism: libertarian views win out

OK, let’s lay things out in the whole problem of the player protests in the NFL and NBA over racism during the playing of the National Anthem at games.

First, I can’t imagine how kneeling (or locking arms) is disrespectful of the flag, or offensive.  At least personally.

The best information suggests that NFL and NBA owners seem so support the protests, and are not doing so out of fear of player “rebellion”.

Players do have a First Amendment right to protest when a national symbol is displayed as far as the government is concerned (including president Trump) but their employers have a legal right to constrain what they say on the job, and sometimes off the job in public mode if the speech can cause disruption to legitimate business interests (essentially “conflict of interest” in speech).

The NFL and its associated professional sports franchises are private businesses.  Same with MLB, NBA, NHL, soccer, etc.  They can regulate what players say on the job, or what they do on social media if behavior affects business.  But they don’t have to.  If the leagues and the owners want to single out the issue behind the protests (especially police racial profiling and BLM) they are free to do so.

Apparently, yesterday, the support for the protests in the NFL was overwhelming, including at the Washington Redskins’ game  (a 27-10 win)Sunday night (and this is ironic given the controversy over the team name and trademark as a potential slur against Native Americans).

In the past, however, the owners were not as supportive.  Consider the history if Colin Kaepernick.  This morning, Bob Costa said on CNN that Colin has said before that voting was useless because of the current power structure (reportedly he said that before the 2016 election).

I do have problems with a couple of areas.  One is if another group (BLM or anyone else) decides that its issue must be implemented in such a way that anyone else (like me, as an individual speaker an author) must somehow pay them homage to have a voice at all.  There are many examples of oppression, and I can’t say that one is always more demanding than another (Charlottesville and Trump’s “both sides” notwithstanding).    Along these lines, Juana Summers piece on CNN “It’s impossible for black athletes to leave politics off the field”.

Another is that I had my own issue back in the 1990s, where I had a potential “conflict of interest” over my planned speech on gays in the military when I was working for a company that served members of the military as a fraternal provider. I wound up transferring to Minneapolis (and having some of the best years of my own life).  There was a time when a family medical emergency (Mother’s surgery in 1999) might have forced me to come back, conceivably costing me my job as a result.  I did not have the right to “hide” behind “systematic oppression” as an out.  Fortunately, this worked out OK on its own.

President Trump was certainly out of line Saturday night in Huntsville AL when he “demanded” that NFL owners “fire” players for protesting.  The President doesn’t have the right to tell private businesses what protests to support or allow on the job.

Major league sports have come a long way in dealing with discrimination, particularly MLB with its various statements including sexual orientation.

But the NFL may have problems with its own treatment of players regarding head injuries (the recent revelations about Aaron Hernandez are among the worst).  Trump wanted to deny even football brain injuries (WSJ editorial).

I want to mention Margaret Sullivan’s Washington Post (Style section) article today about new state laws restricting protests that disrupt traffic or businesses.  She says that the kinds of protests that ended the Vietnam War (and the draft) might be illegal in many states (well, remember Kent State in 1970). We’ll have to come back to this.

I also want to mention Villasenor’s study for Brookings on attitudes toward free speech on campus.  Younger adults, without the same grounding in civics classes that my generation had, seem to gravitate to a more authoritarian concept of how speech works in society.  That is, the intended effect and likely actions on the listener or watcher matter (“implicit content”), as does the idea that words can be weaponized (even if by Russia on Facebook).

(Posted: Monday, September 25, 2017 at 11 AM EDT)

Prosecuting police for “profiling” misconduct will not be easy; look at Freddie Gray case


The acquittal now of Caesar Goodson in the Freddie Gray case  (CNN story, NY Times story) suggests that criminal prosecutions of the six officers will not be successful, and that Maryln Mosby has grossly overcharged.

On CNN’s “Legal Guys” Saturday, defense attorney Richard Herman said bluntly that you cannot use prosecution just to prevent riots. Herman believes there should not be any more trials.  “Hot Air” offers a similar perspective.

The bench trial probably helped the defendants, as a judge is more likely to apply criminal law literally and not consider politics or victims’ emotions, as a jury might.

The Baltimore Sun had discussed a novel theory for prosecuting Nero, which the judge did not buy, based on the fact that Gray should not have been arrested in the first place.

I did film some of the protest marches in Washington DC in late 2014, and visited the site in Baltimore’s Sandtown the last week of April 2015.  But I suppose people will come on me, that I don’t “join in” with protests, as if that were beneath me.

It does seem that the officers in the Freddie Gray case and in most of the similar cases around the nation behaved improperly, used excessive force, used racial profiling, and particularly failed to provide medical assistance when needed.  (The Darien Hunt case in Utah is interesting.)  Non-violent protests are quite justified, as are civil lawsuits.  I don’t know where police actually have criminal liability in cases like this.  In Maryland, according to the judge, the bar set by state law for a criminal prosecution of police officers is quite high.  It may be lower in other states.  Legislatures could review the wording of statutes in these situations.  Such review seems needed in Maryland. The future use of body cameras as evidence certainly needs careful attention.

The one major case where I disagree with the protestors a lot is the original incident in Ferguson, Mo.   In this case, it appears that Michael Brown’s own behavior (starting with an apparent petty offense in the convenience store and then his actions when confronted by Darren Wilson) had a lot to do with the tragic outcome.  In fact, Michael Brown supposedly had a promising future with college, and his behavior seems inexplicable.  That Wilson would wind up practically living in hiding is totally unacceptable.  Wilson’s defense seems, objectively, credible.  But this is not the case with most of the other high profile cases involving police misconduct or profiling.

(Published: Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 2:15 PM EDT)