Let’s talk a little about rights. Two stories lately – both involving football strangely – have highlighted the idea of “rights”. I wanted to write more about this but realized it would take two or three separate articles and I don’t have time for that right now. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
The first story is probably more familiar – and that would be Colin Kaepernik’s refusal to stand during the National Anthem. Let me say that I don’t necessarily agree with his position, though the current situation involving the black community and law enforcement is by no means cut and dry. But regardless of his opinion, Colin (may I call you Colin?) certainly has a right to express his opinion.
Or does he?
The First Amendment protects five different freedoms (yep, go back and count them), free speech being probably the most important to a free society. But who does it protect us from? The Federal government (and State governments through the 14th Amendment), that’s who. So while Colin’s speech is protected from government infringement, his employer can most certainly restrict his speech.
If you have an employer, you probably have a section in your employment agreement, employee handbook, or other document that lists the types of conduct – including speech – not allowable in your workplace. Before you get mad at Colin and call him unpatriotic, first remember that the whole point of protected speech is to protect unpopular speech – I see nothing unpatriotic about his behavior. Who knows, his opinion may turn out to be more correct in hindsight than my own.
What gets me is many people criticizing him are the same ones still tuning in to the NFL on Sunday, still buying $100 tickets and $10 beers, and wearing $60 NFL-franchised jerseys at home on their couch. Hey, that’s your choice – you’re an American – but realize that both the NFL and the 49ers have the ability to take some kind of action. If you want to be mad at someone, either would be a more appropriate target.
Likewise, some of my pro-gun brethren are up in arms (no pun intended) about University of Missouri’s Coach Barry Odom’s policy of restricting gun ownership for players on his team. I know this policy was later amended (of course illegal gun use should be restricted…did he really need a policy??), but Coach Odom is well within his authority as the team’s coach to restrict the activities of his players. Again, the Second Amendment, like the First, is a protection against infringement by the Federal and State governments. You don’t have a right to play football (otherwise I’m heading for Qualcomm right now). We don’t think anything of players being sanctioned for breaking curfew, drinking, cheating, or any number of activities that might affect athletic performance or reflect poorly on the character of the team. There is nothing in the Constitution that says a football coach can’t restrict his players from carrying or owning guns. Don’t like it? Play for another coach.
The next time someone says “I have a right to…”, apply this test. Could a lone caveman say the same thing? But that’s a subject for another couple of posts.