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.

ESPN’s Hill has a History of Race-Baiting

Controversial ESPN personality Jemele Hill recently got into some hot water regarding a tweet she sent out conveying her opinion of President Donald Trump. In her tweet, Hill said:

“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

ESPN has responded by saying that her remarks do not represent the network. No action was taken against Hill for the statement.

Although many have felt that some sort of penalty should have been enforced against Hill, ESPN not taking action against her should not come as a surprise. Hill has had a significant recent history of making baseless and outlandish racial remarks while employed at the network. Several of her past columns reflect either an inability to look outside of race as a situational factor or just a blatant desire to race-bait. No action was taken against her for those things as well.

During the 2010 NFL season, Hill wrote an article entitled “Is race still an issue for NFL QBs?” The three black quarterbacks that Hill chose as examples of “unfair” treatment were Vince Young, Jason Campbell and Donovan McNabb. When examining these three QB’s with the timeframe in which the article is written, the baselessness of Hill’s claims becomes apparent. Young would have his final regular season start in the NFL just one season later. His career was also marked by immaturity and conflict with his head coach. Campbell was in the midst of a wildly inconsistent season for the Oakland Raiders in which the team ended up going 8-8. McNabb was almost completely washed-up by this point in his career and was attempting to lead a mediocre Redskins team while having only marginal success. Clearly none of these examples are cases of some sort of stellar QB being blatantly spurned by a racist coach.

Nearly a year after writing that article, Hill doubled down on her playing of the race card when comparing quarterbacks Michael Vick and Tim Tebow. In that article, Hill stated that:

“When Tim Tebow bowls over a couple of defensive players for a touchdown in a meaningless preseason game, it’s considered a display of his toughness and leadership. But when Vick launches himself at Troy Polamalu after throwing a costly interception, it’s considered risky and stupid.”

Looking into the professional status of the two quarterbacks at this time, it becomes apparent that this comparison is absurd. Vick was the established starting QB for the Eagles and was about to sign a huge contract. Tebow was still backing up Kyle Orton on the Broncos at the time and was playing under a rookie contract. But of course, Hill doesn’t want to see these types of differences. She only sees race as the source of differing narratives.

Perhaps the most egregious of Hill’s race-baiting articles came after O.J. Simpson was found guilty of orchestrating an armed robbery in 2008. When questioning how fair the case’s jury was, Hill writes in her article:

“There are also serious questions about whether the jury was unbiased. According to an Associated Press report, five of the 12 jurors — all of whom were white — wrote in their questionnaires they disagreed with the 1995 verdict…so much for an unbiased jury of one’s peers.”

So apparently according to Hill, in order to accurately and unbiasedly serve on the jury of a man accused of a crime, you must have thought he was not guilty of a previous crime he was tried for. Why is this some sort of standard for being fair and objective in an unrelated case? Also, why even mention the race of those on this jury who thought Simson was guilty back in 1995? Certainly there were blacks (and other non-whites) who thought the jury decided Simpson’s 1995 double murder case incorrectly. Would it be “biased” to allow them to serve on this jury as well? Or is it only whites who thought this way who weren’t able to decide a fair verdict for the 2008 trial?

Given that Hill has been able to voice all of these opinions in ESPN columns without consequence, it becomes apparent that any reprimand for her tweets about Donald Trump should not be expected. The network has no problem giving her a platform for her views no matter how baseless or race-obsessed they are. It’s best to keep this in mind with regard to any of her statements going forward. Getting upset with someone who has the track record of Jemele Hill just isn’t worth it.