This may come as a surprise to many of you, but a filter-less, burned out reality TV star is currently the president of the United States. Wild, right? While his election came as an absolute bummer to many, many people, it also came as an unprecedented victory to many others.
Many of the victorious half used to reside in my Twitter mentions on a regular basis. They were the spell-check-less, the dog-avatar-having, the literally-dozens-of-followers-boasting masses. This has truly been a revelation for the Twitter Egg.
Back then, I used to talk about sports, and other things. They used to shout at me about removing the other things from my repertoire. Anyone that likes sports and endeavors to talk about them on the Internet hears it in their deepest, darkest night terrors: “STICK TO SPORTS. WE DON’T FOLLOW YOU FOR POLITICS.” As if my existence on this website is completely premised on your loyal attention.
WELL. On this, September 23, 2017, the trope is officially dead. Put a fork in it, like a well-done steak. Our beleaguered leader of the free world has officially given sports journalists an unlimited hall pass to no longer stick to sports. After today, it is not possible to separate the sports from the other, more divisive topics in our society.
And look, I get it. That’s rough. We watch sports to escape! My original Twitter bio proclaimed that “I stick my head in the sand with sports.” That was true for me until it no longer could be – until I had grown enough in my intellectual curiosity to explore other topics, and invest my interest in topics beyond my favorite team’s win-loss record.
So I understand, wholeheartedly, the impulse to bristle when the real world collides with sports. And I recognize, albeit disagreeably, with your own opinions about the issues that Colin Kaepernick, or Michael Bennett, or Megan Rapinoe seek to illuminate with their protests. I respect your right to have those opinions, to express them.
It is the continued effort toward censorship with which the dude does not abide, because the United States Constitution does not abide either. I’m inclined to roll with that, the Constitution. Surely you, dog-avatar-haver, roll with the Constitution as well. The right to bear arms and what not, amirite?
You see, the First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition to Government for a redress of grievances.”
That second clause is what we’re concerned with for the purposes of this particular column. But more importantly, we’re concerned with the rationale behind including the First Amendment to begin with.
The Supreme Court has struggled for decades to discern the exact intention and bounds of the First Amendment. Specifically, they have been faced with controversies over what forms of expression are outside of the bounds of protection?
One form of expression that has never faced doubt is what the Court calls “Core Political Speech.” This is speech or conduct specifically addressing social or political issues. The Court has, time and again, labeled it as absolutely essential to our society. In order for a state or federal government to pass a law restricting “Core Political Speech,” that law must survive “strict scrutiny” by showing that it was narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.
That’s a lot of legal mumbo jumbo that roughly translates to: speech on social issues is really goddamn important, and as such, extremely difficult to restrict.
But why? Well, a democracy needs a healthy debate, so that the voting public can make an informed decision. One of the most widely accepted rationales for the importance of political speech is the “marketplace of ideas” concept. It stands for the proposition that, if there is freedom of unrestricted public discourse, truth will eventually emerge from the competition that ensues. Our democracy will be better for it.
For example, Colin Kaepernick can argue that police officers subject minorities to abuse and disparate treatment. You can vehemently disagree. The people in the marketplace can consume both of your arguments, and decide which one they find more convincing. The assumption is that truth will prevail. On that point, I dunno.
So, what’s the point, Ruthless? Well, I figured that, seeing as it’s fairly relevant at the moment, more people should really understand the First Amendment. But also, it’s important to recognize that we are all currently existing in this marketplace of ideas!
Kaepernick has the right to kneel during the National Anthem. Stephen Curry has the right to say that he doesn’t want to go to the White House. The president has the right to say that protesting players should be fired. I have the right to pen this column. You have the right to jump in the comments sections and call me a hack. The First Amendment protects all of those expressions.
So, go forth, and tell the protestors that they are disrespectful! Maybe you’ll convince them and they’ll stop! It is absolutely your right to do that. Just know that when you do, they have the right completely ignore you and continue to protest. Because the Constitution ensures their right as well.