Freedom of what?

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Let me begin by saying I have a thing about free speech. I always have.

When I was 12, I told one of my sisters to shut up because she was annoying the hell out of me while my mother was driving us home one evening. When my mom told me not to use those words, I reminded her of my free speech rights which caused her to pull over to the side of the road. She began lecturing me at which point I got out and walked home in the dark. No one, not even my mother was going to silence me.

James Moore: Free speech advocate (James Moore)
James Moore: Free speech advocate
(James Moore)

In high school, I took things a step further when I headed up a group of students known as the Rowdy Rooters. We became quite the group at our basketball games, both home and away, because not only did we stand all game, we had our own “unique” cheers (okay, some were offensive) that were designed to intimidate opponents. To say we were hated by school administrators was an understatement.

Eventually, we were suspended from a league game so we took it upon ourselves to picket the event. I was escorted off by a cop who claimed I was in violation of some local ordinance.

When I reminded him of my free speech rights, he gave me the choice of leaving on my own or in handcuffs. I chose to leave on my own primarily because I knew my father would have made me walk the ten miles back to the campus the next day to get my car. Otherwise, I’d be a hardened criminal today.

2016 is not 1977 and I am no longer a senior in high school, just a senior citizen, but still, I have a thing about free speech. I have no problem with Colin Kaepernick sitting, kneeling, or scratching his benched butt during the national anthem. It’s his right to do so whether or not we agree with him. I believe he believes he is making a point about something, although I am not so sure it is all that effective. Time will tell. You see, besides believing in free speech, I also believe actions speak louder than words.

Maybe I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I believe I am not alone when I wonder what it is everyone is up in arms about, or down on their knees. Kaepernick is upset about how cops conduct themselves and seems to support the Black Lives Matter movement, however, I still think he, and countless others, would be wise to solve the murder crisis that plagues cities like Chicago where black on black crime is a far greater problem.

Kaepernick was supported last week by USWNT soccer player Megan Rapinoe who also took a knee during the anthem. However, she was trying to bring attention to how people of the LGBT community are being mistreated. It resulted in her WSL team bumping up the playing of the anthem while she and her teammates were still in the locker room. Of course, Rapinoe felt this was a blatant attempt to crush her free speech rights while forgetting her team owners have the right to determine when the anthem is played. Either way, with WSL games looking more like a high school JV soccer match attendance wise, does it even matter?

Meanwhile, we had the Seattle Seahawks making a team wide statement of sorts in their season opener by linking arms during the anthem. What the hell does this mean? Their hands are not on their hearts so are they showing disdain or are they standing united as a team in support of our flag?

What message are they sending because I sure don’t know. I do know it received plenty of attention until the refs screwed up a call that could have decided the game.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodall at the 2016 NFL Draft Town in Chicago, IL (Claudia Gestro)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodall at the 2016 NFL Draft Town in Chicago, IL (Claudia Gestro)

And then there is my buddy, NFL commissioner, Roger Goodsell (Goodell), the guy who has no idea what message he sends to the nation. He says Colin Kaepernick, and other players, have the right to kneel or sit during the playing of the anthem even though he does not agree with what they do.

However, he draws the lines with shoes. You see, he would not allow Tennessee Titan linebacker Avery Williamson to wear his red white and blue cleats with “Never Forget” and “9/11” painted on the back of them in honor of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I guess the American flag does not need as much respect as the NFL’s uniform policy.

But what about the New York Giants wide receiver duo of Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz? They planned to wear two sets of patriotic cleats, one for warm-ups and the other for the game. Mr. Goodsell, what gives? At this rate, he may require New England to change their name from Patriots to Dissidents because let’s face it, it’s offensive to be patriotic.

None of this can pass without any finger pointing so who should we blame? If you are a Republican, this is all the result of Democrats who have turned this nation into countless disenfranchised splinter groups as a way to gain votes and political power. However, if you are a Democrat, this is all the fault of Republicans who have ignored these people because all they care about is white America. Like everything else, I guess we will leave it up to the independents to decide who is to blame.

We complain about athletes who are too bland and never have anything of social value to comment on. Team owners, however, prefer them all to be like Peyton Manning and just stick to making funny pizza commercials. Who needs a Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali, or John Carlos and Tommie Smith? They just cause trouble and make us think about stuff and why do we want athletes who make us think? Life is better when we can just drink and argue over a game, right?

Still, it might be more effective if these athletes had a summit of sorts and actually discussed what they are concerned about so we fans might have a better idea as to what they are trying to wake us up to. This requires a format that goes beyond a tweet and may actually require a few athletes to be spokespeople.

All I know from all of this is maybe it is time we just do away with the playing of a patriotic song before watching two teams try and beat the shit out of each other. Is this what America represents? Violence is fine for entertainment purposes, but not okay as a way of solving social problems? Maybe the NFL can call itself the No Flag League and lower the stars and stripes because it might be offensive to some fans. Perhaps, instead of something as offensive as the national anthem, we can all stand and hold hands and sing along to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” just before we jump a guy in a stadium bathroom because he has the audacity to wear the visiting team colors.

I also know this: on the off chance I decide to actually turn on a sporting event of any kind, I am damn sure going to do so after the playing of whatever song whatever league decides is not too offensive to the general public is played and just in case there is a player, cheerleader, or equipment manager who is offended by something, I will not have to see it, that is unless it is up for review by game officials or the FBI.

Top photo: Megan Rapinoe taking a knee during the National Anthem (YouTube)