The Chicago Tribune’s Page 2 columnist Dahleen Glanton argued that the National Football League violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech when it order its players to either stand for the playing of the National Anthem or remain in the locker room.
….the NFL is attempting to diminish the right all of us by trampling on the First Amendment.
It’s an embarrassing mistake, especially because the entire column is based on that mistaken premise. The First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech applies only to the government, not to individuals or private entities, such as the NFL. The purpose of the Bill of Rights was clear in the Founding Fathers’ minds–to safeguard individual rights from the kind of government restrictions that the King of England had imposed on Americans. They didn’t have individuals or private entities in mind.
I know about this because years ago I made the same mistake in a newspaper column, a mistake that a reader forcefully pointed out.
Yes, the purpose of the First Amendment is to to promote the free exchange of ideas, as she said, and respect for each other’s opinions should be, but sadly isn’t, is a cornerstone of self-government.
That’s why it’s so disturbing that while the nation’s left and media make such a cause célèbre of protecting the rights of protesting NFL players, liberals barely notice the trampling of freedom of speech on the nation’s college campuses. Actually, more than that; the left justifies and even celebrates the gagging of voices–as long as they are conservative voices–in our schools.
Case after case have been documented of the liberal establishment at so many universities selectively throttling dissenting conservative voices through the use of such tools as free speech zones, hate speech codes and trigger warnings. Prohibition of “micro-aggressions” is routinely deployed to throttle students who disagree with the liberal agenda on everything from same-sex marriage to capitalism. College classrooms are stacked with liberal-leaning and hard left professors and administrators regularly reinforce the left’s efforts to silence conservative free expression.
One of the arguments that the left hurls against conservatives on campus is that they are engaging in “hate speech” that isn’t protected by the First Amendment. The left’s definition of hate speech is so loosely defined that sometime it’s incomprehensible. No matter; however you define hate speech, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2017 in Matal v. Tam that hate speech is protected.
Many of these offenses are happening on the campuses of public universities that are by definition government agencies. As such, the constitutional protections of free expression do apply, unlike private schools or the NFL. In other words, trying to stifle free expression at a public university is just as egregious as President Donald Trump using government tools to try to silence his critics.
Here’s another difference between the NFL and academe: The idea of a university is to hash out differing ideas, search for the truth and seek enlightenment. Pro football is a sport. The university is where you defend your principles and challenge others. The NLF is about a game involving a ball.
Ms.Glanton suggests that folks who defend the NFL’s right to require its employees to stand during the playing the National Anthem owe an apology to Americans who died in the defense of their country. It’s an outrageous argument, but Ms. Glanton doesn’t need to apologize–demanding apologies is the left’s favorite ploy. She just needs to get the facts straight.
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