Today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders urged ESPN to fire primetime SportsCenter host Jemele Hill, after she called President Trump a “white supremacist” and “a bigot” on Twitter.
And it got me thinking about the contradictions around the First Amendment protections — the same protections that have been at the center of every argument for why every racist, white supremacist, neo Nazi or generally controversially offensive public figure should be allowed to speak on college campuses across the country. The defense has even gotten to the point where institutions like Auburn and Michigan State universities are actually being sued over their decisions to prohibit known racists from speaking on campus.
So what I’ve come to decide is that the defense of the First Amendment is only relevant in cases where there is an actual judicial precedent which says certain types of speech are not protected/ Like when the speech is presenting a “clear and present danger” of “substantive evils,” and when it is “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action,” the latter of which was actually decided, ironically, in the case of a Ku Klux Klan leader convicted for remarks made during a rally in the state.
To recap: First Amendment rights are only defended when they’re not actually owed. And they’re not for everyone; Colin Kaepernick can’t kneel, and Jemele Hill can’t tweet her opinions about the president. But do all lives still matter, or did we leave that in 2016?
Also today, because it was apparently an eventful day, Red Sox fans hung a “Racism is as American as baseball” sign over the Green Monster, where it remained for about 20 minutes before staff were able to confiscate it and escort out the offenders. I actually think these fans had a point, except for the idea that football is actually America’s favorite sport, by far, if we’re looking at viewership and money spent and all that jazz.
But were these fans coming from a place where they were trying to wake people up and make them acknowledge an ugly truth, or were they bragging about the petulance of their own fan base? This is, after all, the same group that threw peanuts at Orioles’ outfielder Adam Jones as they called him a n****r. And the same city Bill Russell once called “a flea market of racism,” years after his home was burglarized and vandalized with racist graffiti and someone defecated in his bed when he was still playing there.
But regardless of the intent, Boston fans have a point. I was going to write separately today about an article I read this morning on disparities in the handling of sexual assault cases on college campuses. The article centered around one question: “Is the system biased against men of color?”
The answer is, simply, yes. In the same way the entire country’s system is biased against men of color. And I can’t see it changing anytime soon, because the system doesn’t work unless someone is on the top and someone is on the bottom. You don’t have America if you don’t slaughter hordes of indigenous people to lay claim to the land, and then kidnap others to bring them here to work it. Our society doesn’t work if there isn’t a definite proletariat — and even though the working class in this country extends across racial groups, racism is the glue which holds it together and allows people to maintain their feelings of superiority, even when they’d otherwise be on the bottom rung of the social totem pole.
So whether we’re talking about sexual assault cases filed on college campuses against black athletes, or we’re talking about Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s ex-girlfriend telling him his word was worthless against hers in a domestic violence case because he’s black and she’s a white female, or whether it’s the NFL’s lukewarm stance on justice for people who look like 80% of its workforce (but only 15% of its consumer base), there is no denying the system is not set up to defend people of color. Or even to simply avoid antagonizing them further.
Sports are a microcosm of the broader society. And Boston fans, for once, are right: Baseball is as American as baseball.