I disagree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it

Helen Wale Turner Publisher & Managing Editor

Helen Wale Turner
Publisher & Managing Editor

The quote in this headline “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is the basic tenet of the first amendment to our constitution which guarantees freedom of speech. Anyone who decides to state an opinion or protest something– even an athlete who does not stand for the national anthem – has every right to do so under the protection of the first amendment. We may not like it, and we have every right to exercise our freedom of speech by saying so, but we cannot deny his constitutional rights.
In fact, I do say so right here; I disagree with anyone disrespecting our country, whether it’s not standing for the Star Spangled banner or not pledging allegiance to the flag, or disrespecting the office of the president, but I fully defend their right to do so as long it is done peaceably and does not intrude on the rights of others to state an opposite point of few.
Now, since ordinary citizens don’t have a national platform like an NFL game, how can they make their opinion known? Change the channel and don’t watch the NFL, and don’t buy NFL merchandise. Use socia media. Games’ ratings have already dropped, and if they see a few more weeks of shrinking audiences, I suspect the NFL and team owners would find a way to convince the players to stand at attention (although I could argue the gesture is meaningless if forced).
Further, I don’t believe the NFL can fire an athlete for kneeling unless a requirement to stand is written into their contract – and maybe not even then.
There is another tenet, one I would suggest to President Trump: pick your battles. There are so many problems in our country and so much division that I have been hoping he would tone down his rhetoric across the board and find ways to make his point yet bring people together – not drive them further apart.
Trump was certainly within his rights to express his disappointment or even outrage, but he was wrong to say players should be fired, and he was wrong on so many levels to publicly call a peaceful protestor an S.O.B.
Yes, the president also has freedom of speech, but he, as too often happens, went too far. His actions succeeded only in calling more attention to the protestors, creating more sympathizers. The media has largely been using the situation for ratings and to bash Trump, and his remarks played into their hands.
I think Drew Brees responded almost perfectly to the situation. He disagreed with the protestors and also disagreed with President Trump in a statement before the September 24 Saints game in which he spoke his opinion while being respectful to both sides.
Brees’ statement, in part, said, “I disagree with what the president said and how he said it. I think it’s very unbecoming of the office of the President of the United States to talk like that, to degrade people like that, and obviously, he’s disappointed a lot of people… There will always be issues with our country …, and we should all be striving to make those things better. But if the protest becomes that we’re going to sometimes kneel or not show respect to the flag of the United States of America, and everything that it symbolizes, I do not agree with that. Standing for the national anthem with your hand over your heart is a unifying thing; it should bring us all together and say, ‘You know what, things are not what they should be, but we will continue to work and strive to make things better, to bring equality to all people, no matter your race, creed, or religion.’ … I will always believe that we should be standing and showing respect to our flag with our hand over our heart.”
And then Brees went out on the field and did just that. It’s a shame most news reports showed the Saints who sat in protest, but not Brees and others who were standing – but that would’t have suited their agenda.
Why couldn’t Trump have been as diplomatic as Brees?
Further, the protesting players and owners are getting attention, but what are they accomplishing? No one knows for sure what their cause is. I suggest that they could have more impact outside the stadium by speaking out for peaceful, constructive changes and especially by going into troubled neighborhoods and using some of their millions to build more Girls’ and Boys’ Clubs, fund scholarships, build parks, provide recreation opportunities and jobs, etc.
P.S. I notice the national media does not give the same amount of attention to all cases involving protests and freedom of speech. In past months, numerous speakers across the country have had their freedom of speech suppressed through the use of threats, vandalism, violence or being shouted down. Where were the sympathizers and protests over the denial of free speech then?
Helen Wale Turner
I invite you to email your questions, comments, suggestions for stories, constructive criticism, etc. to me, Helen Turner, at helen@inspiredmedia-la.com. I’d love to hear from you.