Leftist Writer Accidently Makes the Case for Freedom of Association

A recent article published in The Atlantic by Jemele Hill has caused quite a stir. Hill, a former ESPN employee, titled the piece “It’s Time for Black Athletes to Leave White Colleges.” The subheading reads:

“They attract money and attention to the predominantly white universities that showcase them, while HBCUs struggle. What would happen if they collectively decided to go to black schools?”

The core message of the piece is that, since NCAA football players and basketball players are mostly black, they are making significant money for the schools they represent. Yet as a result of NCAA rules, none of these players (regardless of skin color) is allowed to receive any actual payment from the money that they bring in. Since this will continue to be the case, those elite black athletes should choose to attend historically black colleges and universities (often referred to as HBCU’s) to make money for those institutions instead. The article goes on to imagine how great that would be if it happened.

As a libertarian and thus a firm advocate for the freedom to voluntarily associate or disassociate with whomever you wish, I couldn’t help but think of Noam Chomsky when he quipped that:

“If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.”

Despite many disagreements I have with Chomsky, I believe this message to be absolutely on point. But it isn’t just limited to free speech. Since people clearly have more freedoms than just speech, Chomsky’s standard should be applied to those too. One of these other freedoms, as Hill helps make apparent, is the freedom of association. In a free society, individuals have a right to both associate with those they wish and disassociate (or discriminate) from whomever they desire. There could be many reasons for this voluntary action, but those reasons are irrelevant. If individuals are truly free, then they have the freedom to be with anyone else they want to be with or not.

Hill’s article makes the case that elite black athletes should chose to discriminate against traditionally white schools and instead associate with historically black ones. She acknowledges there may be some disadvantages to doing this such as exposure, size of the school and the facilities available. Yet she continues to make the case for this voluntary association in order to counter a corrupt NCAA system. Some may question the wisdom of going down this path. But nonetheless, individuals have every right to make such decisions whether they are based on race or any other factors.

These opinions expressed by Hill have been met with a significant amount of criticism. But of course, there are other types of personal and private discriminations that occur which draw the ire of society’s gatekeepers of public opinion. Many kinds of this discrimination have become politically incorrect to the point that all debate seems to be shut down if anyone supports them. Yet the right to voluntary association should remain if we want to be a society that respects this right that all people should innately have. So the following are questions I have directed toward Hill in accordance with her new found affection for the individual right to freely associate.

Does Jemele Hill support the right to secession?

The ability of any territory to secede from a nation it does not want to be a part of anymore is a fundamental aspect of free association. Often in the United States, support for secession is met with accusations of racism and claims of supporting slave owners. But secessions have occurred all over the world and usually have no connection to slavery whatsoever. Even in the United States, the first secession our country faced originated in New England and centered around the opposition to President Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase. Clearly racism and slavery do not need to be issues when a voluntary separation occurs within a country. Certainly if black student athletes are able to voluntarily associate with an HBCU over a majority white school, then individuals who reside in a nation that they no longer feel represents their best interests should be able to disassociate from that nation.

Does Jemele Hill support Brexit?

In keeping with the previous question about secession, the decision of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union is another example of voluntary disassociation. It is clear that many British citizens feel that the time is right to separate from the EU. Whether or not this is a wise decision is not relevant. The point is that if Hill feels that black basketball and football players should “exit” white collegiate institutions, then the UK should absolutely be able to exit the European Union. Perhaps she can call her plan “White Collexit” as a spinoff.

Does Jemele Hill support the right of a Christian baker to refuse to make a gay wedding cake?

If one believes in the freedom of association, then the belief in the right to use your labor as you see fit is a must. Hill certainly understands this since she desires for black athletes who labor under the NCAA to do so for an HBCU. Yet if this principle is to be applied consistently, those who own property and labor while using that property have this right as well. Thus, a baker (for whatever reason, not just a religious one) should be able to exclusively make wedding cakes for straight couples. If elite black ball players have the right to exclusively offer their services to historically black schools, then those who bake wedding cakes should also have the right to offer their services only to the couples that they want to offer them to.

All of this brings us back to that infamous quote from Chomsky. If Hill truly believes in the freedom to associate, then that freedom needs to be applied to more than just those she finds favor in. Hill clearly admires black college athletes and sees them as positive agents of change. But in keeping with the true application of freedom, people need to also support it for those they believe are not being wise or virtuous. Hill may not admire secessionists, Brexiters or discriminatory bakers. But the admiration for any of these aforementioned groups is not the point. The point is that freedom must be applied to them too if we are going to claim that we believe in it. For if we do not believe in the freedom of association of those we despise, we really don’t believe in it at all.

Looking to NFL History to Determine Carli Lloyd’s Chances

A recent video of soccer star Carli Lloyd successfully kicking a 55 yard field goal has many people talking. The video, taken before a preseason game between the Eagles and Ravens, has made its rounds on the internet after “going viral” and has gotten played on many sports talk shows. The result has been that several NFL teams have reportedly contacted Lloyd about the possibility of kicking in the league one day. When asked about it in a recent interview, the USWNT forward said that she is “toying with the idea of potentially going for it.”

Though the viral video of Lloyd’s kick is undeniably impressive, some are skeptical of how a number of details would translate to the kicking that goes on in a game situation. First, during the clip Lloyd is wearing shorts and a t-shirt rather than full pads and a football helmet. Second, there is no defense attempting to block the kick that a game situation would have. Finally, since the entirety of the video is only 20 seconds long, it’s impossible to tell if Lloyd had any misses from any distance either before or after the video was shot.  Taking in these variables creates a much greater unknown when it comes to someone who has never played the sport on any level.

Although no female kickers have made it onto an NFL squad, a number of male soccer players have tried to do what Lloyd might attempt. Several men who have played “the other football” on the highest level have taken a crack at making the roster in the National Football League. Since this is the closest comparison we have to what Lloyd could be trying to do, it’s fair to look back at what happened in the NFL careers of these men to see how successful she might be. It’s also fair to consider that Lloyd is 37 years old and doesn’t plan on trying out as a place kicker until the 2020 NFL season. So her age in relation to these male counterparts should be considered as well.

The clearest American comparison to Lloyd would have to be that of Tony Meola, a goalie for the US Men’s National Team during the 1994 World Cup. The 25 year old Meola was then signed onto the New York Jets roster as a potential replacement for their existing kicker who was 38 years old (remember, Lloyd is 37). Unfortunately, he had a shaky technique and didn’t create enough hang time on his kickoffs to maximize their effectiveness. Meola was cut after his third preseason game and never ended up playing in regular season NFL contest.

Arguably the best NFL kicking career coming from a former soccer player was by that of Anton “Toni” Fritsch. As a professional striker in Austria, Fritsch won several championships in his home country and played on their national team. In 1971 he was discovered and signed by the Dallas Cowboys and went on to have an 11 year NFL career that also included the Chargers, Oilers and Saints. He would retire in 1982 but make a one year comeback in the USFL for the Houston Gamblers in the 1984 season.

Although Fritsch’s success might give Lloyd’s biggest fans some hope, it’s important to consider the age at which he accomplished these feats. When he first started playing for Dallas, Fritsch was 26. When he retired from the NFL he was 37 and his final season of football came a year before his 40th birthday. Lloyd would be just starting her NFL career, if she chooses to do so, at around the same age as Fritsch (the most successful soccer to NFL convert) ended his.
Support for Lloyd’s potential testing of the waters into NFL kicking has been notably supported by current Buffalo Bills kicker Steven Hauschka. Upon hearing about Lloyd’s possible NFL tryout, Hauschka told ESPN:

“if it’s something she really wants to do, not only will I help her out—if she wants it—but I hope she goes for it.”

Hauschka has an extensive soccer background where he initially went to a Division III school with the intent to play the sport there. Upon getting cut from the school’s soccer team, he ended up trying out for and making the football team as a place kicker.  Eventually he would up kicking for NC State before heading to the NFL. But it would be wise consider the fact that Hauschka was nearly 20 years younger than Lloyd is now when he attempted to switch between the two sports.

So without even getting into any possible gender differences between Lloyd and any of these aforementioned male athletes or discussing the potential of physical harm if a kick gets blocked, the ability of her to make this transition at this stage of her career will be very difficult to say the least. This isn’t to say that Lloyd shouldn’t attempt to accomplish this. In fact, it would make her achievement all that more impressive if she’s able to make it onto an NFL team and survive the cuts. But despite all of the hype surrounding this possibility, it’s apparent that Lloyd securing a spot on an NFL roster is a long shot when we look at the history of the league.