The League

Doug Farrar

Doug Farrar

A staff writer

Athletes Have the Right


People seem to want it both ways from professional athletes - those in the public eye will be castigated if their publicly-held views contrast with those holding the pen, but superstars like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods have long been criticized for not doing enough socially and politically. Free speech doesn't decrease as a person's fame increases, and as long as the person holding the views understands the kind of fight he or she might be in for, it's ridiculous for anyone to say that athletes should simply play their games and stay muzzled on other issues.

I've read Ayanbadejo's comments on the Huffington Post's website, and I thought he had some good points to make. It's true that the views of a Presidential candidate will almost assuredly bend to the extremes of the right or left in the drive to gain as much favor as possible. And I too fail to see the sense in denying any two people of legal age and consent the rights given so freely to other types of couples. But even if I disagreed 100 percent with everything Ayanbadejo believed, I would have no right whatsoever to tell him to keep that to himself. Nor would the Baltimore Ravens, or the National Football League. Ayanbadejo has earned his public face just like every other athlete, and if he wants to use it to raise awareness and foster discussion, more power to him.

By Doug Farrar  |  September 25, 2009; 10:16 AM ET  | Category:  Baltimore Ravens , NFL , Tony Dungy Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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"Free speech doesn't decrease as a person's fame increases...I would have no right whatsoever to tell him to keep that to himself. Nor would the Baltimore Ravens, or the National Football League."

Not necessarily.

You are NOT guaranteed free speech rights when it comes to your employment.

Freedom of speech applies to government not being able to censor speech. Employers can and do control speech, every day of every week of every month of every year.

If he could make the case that this is unrelated to his employment and his speech was not in any capacity as a player in the NFL, then he might have a free speech case.

It's that bit about 'earning his public face,' which he did as an NFL player, that might present a problem. It would be a matter for an experienced Constitutional lawyer to litigate on his behalf, but I really don't think it's a slam dunk in his favor, as counter-intuitive as that might seem.

My point is that most of us, me included, really don't understand this freedom of speech thing, and what it does and does not guarantee. It definitely does not mean you can say anything at any time, and most assuredly doesn't make one immune from the consequences of that speech, as you correctly point out.

Posted by: trippin | September 27, 2009 6:10 PM

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