Nothing is free, really, even speech


Lots of stuff going on in the world lately.

I’m sure you’re aware that there’s a madman on the loose with nuclear weapons, spouting nonsense about Armageddon and what-have-you. There’s also big to-dos in Washington — can’t seem to pull the trigger on the repeal of the most egregiously unconstitutional pieces of legislation, that of Obamacare; or that there’s a push to deal with immigration and the ending of DACA.

There’s also the aftermath of a couple of hurricanes, one of which has left the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico completely without power, and two states are still dealing with the aftermath. There’s fires out of control in Montana, a budget that will increase the national debt, and questions about whether Melania Trump is wearing the right kind of shoes.

But you know what has got the world, social media and newscasters up in arms? Kneeling at sporting events.

For me, this is a non-issue. If by some stretch of the imagination the players, coaches, waterboys feel that these actions are proper protests, then who am I to say?

Where things go off the rails for me in this is the hypocrisy surrounding it, and the overblown reactions it has caused. Also, tying this to a larger debate about free speech seems to me disingenuous.

Constitutionally, we’re guaranteed the right to speak our minds. As a journalist, I defend that right every day, and I believe that is the foundation for all rights we enjoy in this society.

Where this argument falls flat for me is that this is tied to a job. Regardless of how you define it, professional athletes are employed, and they work for a company that is looking to make money from the likes of the common people. In these situations, if your customers get angry with the way business is conducted, they they will express their dissatisfaction and move on, and that, to me, is where this should be left.

Calling for firing players is ridiculous simply for them expressing their indignation; by the same token, employers who can’t see the damage this will do to the bottom line are being really myopic.

Hypocrisy surrounding this comes in many forms. A coach whose team spent the anthem in the locker room — exercising their right to protest — condemned a player for standing on the field exercising his patriotism. Players are applauded for kneeling in protest, but when Tim Tebow knelt in praise, he was reviled. If the national anthem is a symbol of oppression and the impetus of protests, then any anthem played at the Olympic Games should be a source of protests as well, as there’s no country’s history that isn’t stained in some fashion.

By all rights, New England needs to change its mascot, as you can’t be a patriot in protest of a country by claiming that protest is patriotic.

In this instance, Occam’s Razor applies: all things being equal, the simplest solution is the best, and the least stressful. Turn off the TV and spend time with the family or read a book; stop buying tickets and buy cakes from the local church; don’t tailgate at the stadium parking lot, have a neighborhood block party and get to know the people you live near.

Going into high dudgeon over something as minor as this is silly. If we all move on, the ship will right itself. If it doesn’t, we’ve found other option.

Tony Farkas is publisher of the Madisonville Meteor.