The Government’s Opinion of the Confederate Flag has Nothing to do with Free Speech

In the midst of the national purging of the Confederate flag from a whole host of venues, ESPN host Keith Olbermann went to the airwaves recently in order to attempt to make a comparison. In this attempt, he cited a recent Supreme Court case in which it was ruled that the Texas government did not overstep the First Amendment in denying the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ request for specialty license plates bearing the Confederate flag. Thus, it was ruled constitutional for the state of Texas to deny this group license plates with this symbol.

Olbermann then pivoted to apply this ruling to the Washington Redskins organization and their judicial effort to reverse the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s June 2014 ruling to cancel the team’s six trademark protections on grounds of the name ‘Redskins’ being “disparaging” to Native Americans. The host then reported that the judge in this case (Gerald Bruce Lee), told lawyers on both sides that “they should focus on how the Supreme Court ruling on the Confederate flag affects their case.” The audience was then informed that “the lawyers for the Native American side said, obviously, that their case was strengthened since when the Supreme Court ruled that when Texas refused to make the confederate plates because they were offensive, that did not mean that Texas was infringing on the First Amendment free speech rights of those who wanted an offensive symbol on their license plates and thus, that the United States would also not be infringing upon the First Amendment free speech rights of a company who wanted to use an offensive name for their products.” (emphasis mine)

These lawyers are making a rather dangerous assertion. License plates are issued solely by the state as a form of identification. The state is not afforded the same right to speech as individuals or groups of individuals. No individual or group of individuals should have the right to use the state to express a viewpoint. This is because the state is simply force. Nothing more, nothing less. A sports team, on the other hand, is a collection of individuals. Thus, First Amendment protections clearly apply to them regardless of their offensiveness. A sports team is not force no matter how many billions of dollars the team is worth. It cannot (by itself) tax us, arrest us, send us to prison or fine us. The state of course can and does do all of these things. Only imposition by private individuals on the state could result in confederate license pates. But only coercion by the state can prevent private individuals from expressing something that is allegedly offensive. This is why the lawyers for the Native American case are making such a dangerous claim. The First Amendment protects the right to be free from state coercion, not the right to convey your expression by way of the state.

So if a state (like Texas) refuses to grant identification with controversial symbols on it and then a government can rule that because of that refusal that First Amendment protections do not apply to private citizens who exhibit controversial symbols, then what limits are there to the free speech violations that a government could take part in? How many other controversial symbols do various states not issue on forms of identification? Probably a lot. But a lack of state issue has absolutely nothing to do with a private citizen or organization being entitled to free speech while displaying a symbol that some say is controversial. It certainly shouldn’t affect whether or not a private organization can be deprived of trademark protection as a result of a name or symbol that offends some people. A government cannot be its own standard bearer with regard to what is unoffensive enough to deserve First Amendment rights. If it ever becomes this way, our nation will start down a very slippery slope.

If government can use its own standards for what it chooses to express and not express to control the expression of its citizens, then we truly do not live in a free society. As former state judge and current Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said when discussing this issue, “who cares what the government thinks.” Government thinking about what is or isn’t offensive is subject to the whims of whoever controls that government after any given election cycle. But the freedom to speak freely should never depend on the opinions of those who rule over us.

Hernandez Case Shows Hypocrisy of Race Baiters

As many now know, former New England Patriots’ tight end Aaron Hernandez has been found guilty of first degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Hernandez was tried in a Massachusetts courtroom for the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, a onetime friend of his. Those familiar with the case know that Lloyd was a former semi-pro football player for the Boston Bandits. He was also black. Hernandez is of mixed-race heritage since his father is of Puerto Rican ancestry and his mother’s ancestry is Italian.

If the races involved in this killing are giving you a flashback, there’s probably a good reason. The entire country was swept up in the 2012 killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin by the half-white, half-Peruvian George Zimmerman. The civil rights establishment and other black advocacy groups were up in arms over the killing, and rushing to paint it as an example of extreme racial prejudice and profiling. When Zimmerman was ultimately found not guilty, it caused riots, marches and other displays of public outcry.

Despite these similarities, Hernandez’s killing of Lloyd was not met with the same public outrage from the usual suspects in the race baiting crowd. But why not? As with Martin-Zimmerman, there is a half-white, half-Hispanic man accused of murdering a black person. Why wasn’t Hernandez branded the full-fledged racist that Zimmerman was accused of being?

Sadly, the answer to this question can be answered with the associations Hernandez had made by the time of the murder. Even though Hernandez wasn’t black at all, many of his friends have been. In fact, two men that were also arrested for Lloyd’s death and charged with his murder, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, are black. Hernandez’s fiancé, Shayanna Jenkins, is also black. Proving that a man with these kinds of close relationships with blacks was racially motivated to kill a black person would be a much tougher sell for the race hustlers in American society, rather than portraying that a neighborhood watch volunteer in a gated community was racially motivated in killing someone black. Thus, the Hernandez case, despite the publicity it got, was largely left alone by the people who screamed about the supposed racism of George Zimmerman.

Of course, this isn’t a surprise to most of us that follow the typical patterns of the race-baiting black leadership in America. Over 90% of the time that a black person is killed in this country, they are killed by another black person. But highlighting those cases would disrupt the narrative of the white oppressor vs. the black victim that these leaders want so desperately to promote. Not seeing blacks as victims of white oppression, but as victims of problems with their own communities and culture, embraces a responsibility that race baiters had always rejected. Therefore, the rejection of this responsibility would cause the assumption of it to automatically fall to whites rather than blacks. This is the mindset that the civil rights establishment must keep afloat today.

Ultimately, the lack of attention paid to the Hernandez trial by the black leadership was the result of the façade that must continue to be portrayed. Despite Hernandez not possessing a drop of black blood in his body, calling attention to the races involved in Lloyd’s killing would also call attention to the involvement of his two black co-conspirators. As a result, the entire paradigm of white oppressors and black victims would be challenged to an extent that the modern-day civil rights leaders would not be comfortable with. Since Zimmerman had no blacks involved with him in the altercation and eventual killing of Martin, portraying blacks and whites (or even mixed-raced non-blacks) in this manner was of no obstacle for those who are so eager to do it.

The Hernandez-Lloyd and Zimmerman-Martin cases show that even the slightest disruption to the race-baiter’s narrative can cause vastly different responses. The mere involvement of black people in Lloyd’s killing was enough to create a roadblock to his being the poster child for black victimhood that was so easily ascribed to Martin. If all black lives truly matter (as the newly popular saying goes), then the ending of Odin Lloyd’s life should have brought the same passion for justice as the death of Trayvon Martin. But sadly, thanks to politically correct agendas, it most certainly did not.

Grantland’s Pierce: Government Force Justified Unless Proof Exists of Prior Harm

In the midst of an article discussing the events from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Grantland.com writer Charles P. Pierce unsurprisingly used a sizable chunk of his platform to discuss politics. Specifically the bill signed by Indiana Governor Mike Pence (Senate Bill 101) that would (amongst other things) make it legal for businesses in the state to discriminate against homosexuals. With the Final Four coming to Indianapolis next week, Pierce’s concern over the attention paid to this issue boiled over.

Among this angry and degrading rant from Pierce, it was highlighted that Governor Pence “couldn’t come up with a single example whereby a private business had been injured in any way by catering to gay or lesbian customers.” Apparently this lack of an example is all that is needed to force a business to serve those individuals they do not wish to serve according to Pierce. So because a governor can’t think of an example of a prior instance of damage, hardship or inconvenience caused to a business owner who catered to a specific group, that gives the state the right to impose its will on any private business owner. Of course, what the state would be hindering would be the freedom of association. This is not only the freedom to freely associate, but also the freedom to not associate with whichever person or group you wish when it comes to your own property.

Demanding examples of prior injury as some sort of bizarre prerequisite to avoid government suppression of a basic right (like association) sets a dangerous precedent. After all, can someone’s Second Amendment rights be taken away as a result of a lack of proof that restricting their right to bear arms would injure them? If you can’t prove how the government’s domestic spying programs have hurt you, does that give the government the freedom to restrict your Fourth Amendment rights? Clearly a person’s freedoms do not depend on the ability of that person to prove to the government the extent to which denying those freedoms would cause them harm. But I guess Charles P. Pierce thinks otherwise.

Also, consider a scenario in which the governor (or someone else) was able to provide an example of prior injury due to catering to gays and lesbians. Would that one example be good enough for Pierce? What about two examples? What about five? Or maybe ten? I think you can get the point. If it is no longer legal to privately discriminate because there are no examples of prior injury in catering to a specific group, then the illegality of private discrimination is based upon that number being zero. But if one or more examples existed, then the basis of outlawing private discrimination evaporates.

Of course, rights are not based on prior incidents. They are inherent to us and recognized by our Constitution. Rights make it so that the burden of proof is never on us to secure our freedoms by demonstrating how we might be harmed if our liberty is taken away. Rather, it is government which must assume and respect the freedom instilled in all of us.

Olbermann Knows That This Wasn’t the Redskin’s Inaugural Season, Right?

There’s no question that this has, by virtually every measure, been a terrible NFL season for off the field issues. It would be hard for anyone to dispute this. The bigger indiscretions which dominated the headlines were mentioned as part of a four minute rant by ESPN’s Keith Olbermann in which he mentioned the reasons for why he doesn’t care about and will not watch this year’s Super Bowl. Here is the quote specific to these issues (said sarcastically, of course):

“Support the National Football League which brought you Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and Ray McDonald and the racist team name in Washington and Roger Goodell, and all of them just this season.”

Olbermann is correct when identifying that the infractions committed by Rice, Peterson and McDonald were confined to this past year. Certainly the NFL didn’t “bring us” Goodell in that time. He has been the acting commissioner of the NFL since 2006. But I’d imagine that he’s referring to Goodell’s well documented botching of the Rice aftermath. So that at least fits. But to claim that the NFL “brought us…the racist team name in Washington…just this season” is pretty misleading.

The Washington Redskins were first established as a team in 1932. So if the nickname is truly racist, as Olbermann clearly believes it is, then it has been racist ever since then. The nickname did encounter some new opposition this season as both football studio personalities Tony Dungy and Phil Simms claimed they would no longer use the word “Redskin.” In addition, retired NFL referee Mike Carey said he didn’t work games involving the Redskins because he felt the term was “disrespectful.” But opposition from new sources hardly means that the team’s allegedly racist nickname somehow burst onto the scene this season above all others the same way that the Rice, Peterson and McDonald assaults did.

It doesn’t appear that Olbermann is so ignorant as to actually believe that Washington’s professional football team either didn’t have this nickname until this season or that somehow, the nickname wasn’t racist until this season. In the same video, he talks about how he has worked for NBC Sports and Fox Sports in addition to ESPN. Clearly, this overlapped with the Redskin’s existence that has spanned from 1932 until the present.

So why then does Olbermann falsely claim that the NFL “brought us” this “racist team name” during this season specifically? Well, notice how he places it strategically in the midst of other horrible occurrences that plagued the league this year. This is, of course, meant to stir up emotion about actual crimes of violence that took place either during the year or in the off season. Then, with you in this emotional state, Olbermann cleverly places a controversial issue he feels passionately about but has been an ongoing issue for a long time amidst these violent crimes. Perhaps he hopes that without actually thinking about it, his viewers will lump a controversial team name that has been in existence for over 80 years with women and children being beaten and act like they all somehow culminated in the same season when they clearly didn’t.

Sadly, Olbermann still could have mentioned the ongoing Redskins name saga along with the aforementioned instanced of violence as something that continuously acted like a thorn in the side of the league. But where he went so wrong was to present the name controversy as something that was specific to this NFL season when it is certainly not. All of us who follow the NFL can expect to hear more about this controversy as the years go on. What Olbermann said could have been accurate if he were to say something like this:

“Support the National Football League which brought you Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and Ray McDonald all just this season. Plus, you can throw in the league’s ongoing drama with the racist team name in Washington.”

There’s nothing technically wrong with that statement (for the record, I’m not claiming that the Redskin’s name is offensive or not as I will save that for a future article). No implying that the nickname’s controversy was initiated this year or that the alleged racism of the name became an issue during this specific NFL season above all others.

Hopefully Olbermann’s future rants will be a little less misleading. I know, since it’s Keith Olbermann we’re talking about, this may be a little too much to ask.