This was the week for professional sports personalities and athletes to apologize for expressing themselves.
From New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees for stating he would, "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America," to Minnesota Twins outfielder Max Kepler for wearing a Blue Lives Matter respiratory mask, to Sacramento Kings broadcaster Grant Napear who lost his job for tweeting "All Lives Matter" when asked his opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement. Each of these men had to issue major multiple mea culpas, damage control done in an attempt to try to prevent the social media equivalent of being run out of town by the villagers with pitchforks.
It is a confusing time to be an athlete. For years athletes were encouraged to publicly discuss only what happened on the playing field and nothing else and even that, as illustrated comically in Bull Durham, was usually a form of Kabuki Theater where the athlete tried to say absolutely nothing noteworthy by hiding behind acceptable sports clichés.
Then came a drastic change in philosophy, where athletes were encouraged to candidly discuss topics such as politics, social justice and their take of what was wrong in America. Not only are modern athletes encouraged to do this, they are cheered on by the press who opined that it is their duty to speak out on social issues.
One imagines Drew Brees, Max Kepler and Grant Napear are probably scratching their heads at this point, wondering how they instantly became persona non grata in the social media world, which is more and more encroaching what was once considered the real world. After all, they were just doing what they were encouraged by society to do. Granted, these aren't normal times, but probably even more puzzling to this trio is how expressing sentiments that, until recently would have been considered acceptable, has created such a strong negative backlash.
Watching all this go down provides a lesson of the current fragile state of free speech in America. Free speech is strongly encouraged, unless you express views that trigger reactions from a vocal and influential set of people on social media. If that happens, your life will be turned upside down quicker than the speed of light.
The standard has become that you are free to express yourself, unless you disagree with certain influencers. And then if you do, all hell will break loose. Our current situation regarding speech and expression has a dystopian Orwellian quality to it, where the term free speech is now double-speak. You are legally allowed to say whatever you like, but if you cross an undefined line you're toast.
Classic American liberalism was built on the notion of concepts such as free speech and slogans like, "I may disagree with what you say but will defend to death your right to say it." Now, in the name of tolerance we have become less tolerant of those with whom we disagree. This logic escapes me.
Free speech is the foundation of all the other freedoms we have and enjoy. Once free speech is gone from a practical standpoint, all our other freedoms will topple down in short order.
Matthew Kastel is a 25-year veteran of working as an executive in the world of sports, including professional teams, organizations and some of the largest vendors in the industry. Matt has also written two novels and teaches and lectures at universities on the business of sports. For more information you can visit his website at thirdstrikeproductions.com. Read Matthew Kastel's Reports — More Here.
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