Freedom of Speech works both ways

From The Washington Post:

‘It’s BS’: MLB player who knelt during national anthem denied service at Alabama restaurant

By Jacob Bogage | October 24, 2017 | 3:19 PM

Bruce Maxwell (@Bruu_truu13) was barely home in Huntsville, Ala., when he met a rude welcome. Out to lunch with Huntsville city councilman Devyn Keith (@DevynsKeith) and another friend, a waiter recognized Maxwell, the catcher for the Oakland Athletics who knelt during the national anthem, and refused his table service.

Maxwell ordered a beer with his meal, and the waiter asked for drivers licenses from everyone at the table, Keith said. When he saw Maxwell’s ID, the waiter told the group he wouldn’t serve them.

“He said, ‘You are that guy. You are the guy who took a knee,’ ” Keith said. “And then everything changed.”

“He goes, ‘I voted for Trump,’ ” Maxwell told TMZ Sports, ” ‘And I stand for everything he stands for.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, really?’ And our councilman went and got their manager and had some words with him and took him off of our table and put us another person on our table. That’s where I’m from.”

Maxwell told The Washington Post in a text message, “I’m really over that happening and it’s BS.”

Keith, a 27-year-old Democrat, called the episode, “an embarrassment.” He and Maxwell promised the restaurant’s management they wouldn’t publicize its name so people would continue to support local businesses.

“I believe in the fact that this was an idiot doing a stupid thing than a small business doing something wrong,” Keith said.

The idiot doing a stupid thing was Bruce Maxwell, not the waiter who refused to serve him. The unnamed waiter might have been risking his job, but he exercised his freedom of expression just the way Mr Maxwell did in Oakland.

This is what happens when professional players decide to exercise their freedom of speech: not everyone is going to respect what they have to say, and everyone has a right to react and respond — within the law, of course — as he sees fit. This waiter saw fit to refuse to serve Mr Maxwell, and it would be a very good thing if other people did the same.

Of course, it’s already happening, though not quite as personally. The Sporting News, not exactly a political publication, noted:

The league’s average TV audience through Week 5 of the 2017 season dropped 7% vs. the same period of the 2016 season, according to Nielsen data obtained by Sporting News. Worse for the league, the average game audiences are down 18% compared to the first five weeks of the 2015 season.

The NFL’s average TV audience (including Sunday afternoon, Sunday night, Monday night and Thursday night games) slid to 15.156 million viewers through Week 5 of the 2017 season. That’s down 7.42% from an average of 16.371 million viewers through the same period of the 2016 season, and 18% down from the average of 18.438 million viewers through the first five weeks of the 2015 season.

But there’s more: CNN’s Frank Pallotta pointed out:

Ratings last season were hampered by presidential campaign coverage, but viewership rebounded when the election ended and as the playoffs approached. This season got off to a bad start due to Hurricane Irma, which got around-the-clock coverage and prompted evacuations in Florida.

In other words, this season’s decline is over last season’s numbers, which were also down.

There are some trying to explain away the ratings and attendance declines. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports began:

People are staying away from the NFL. Viewership is down and empty seats are up compared to the record ratings of a few years ago. It’s hard to argue that fact. Any camera angle that panned across the upper deck in any number of stadiums Sunday confirmed that fact. The issues with ratings are well-documented.

Then he tried to explain it away by stating that it isn’t the player protests, but bad teams with awful quarterbacks. That a lot of teams in the NFL are dog teams is true, but the same thing has been true for a while now. Mr La Canfora picked on the hapless Cleveland Browns in his article — and the Browns traded away the opportunity to draft Carson Wentz, who’s lighting in up in Philadelphia — but the Browns have been hapless, haven’t had a winning season since 2007, and won only one game in all of 2016. If there aren’t that many teams people want to watch this year, well there weren’t a lot of teams worth watching last year, either.

The fans, people who like pro football, have been exercising their freedom of speech, their rights to assemble peaceably, by choosing not to spend money on NFL games, by choosing not to assemble at football stadia across the land. The fan not in the stands isn’t quite as personal as the waiter who refused to serve Mr Maxwell, because no one knows who isn’t there.

Freedom of speech works both ways: the players have a perfect right to protest anyway they wish, and the fans can do the same. My congratulations to the unnamed waiter in Huntsville, for taking a stand.
Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.

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