Appropriateness is subjective under First Amendment 

[Photo courtesy of Chicago-Sun Times]

By Marshall Myers

Divisive, polarizing and controversial are all words used to describe the current state of social issues in our country. I know what you’re thinking, “Oh no, not another Donald Trump article! We can’t keep up as it is.”

However, this piece is not about our president’s voracious tweeting habits, or the always present dramas that seem to follow him everywhere.  Rather, where does our First Amendment right to free speech end, and can someone take this expression too far?

But first, a look into some recent events.  About three weeks ago, a well-known and liked ESPN host, Jemele Hill, took to twitter to voice her opinions on our current president. Using terms like “white supremacist,” “ignorant,” and “bigot,” her tweets gained notoriety very quickly.

Being the avid twitter user that he is, President Donald Trump felt it necessary to respond, largely criticizing ESPN as a whole. After heated exchanges, and closed-door meetings, both ESPN and Hill issued apologies. ESPN did not deem it necessary to part ways with Hill upon her act of contrition.

jamelehill
A tweet from Jemele Hill concerning President Donald Trump.

Why was the Hill controversy important to First Amendment proponents? Ironically, this freedom is something that the highest-ranking person in our country should know, respect and protect.

If you are a legal US citizen, you are awarded constitutional rights that no one can take away from you, unless you do something to forfeit those rights. Among those rights is the freedom to say whatever you want, about whomever you want, whenever and however.

Whether one agrees with Hill’s characterization of Trump as a racist, it’s her constitutional right to call him names.  Mature and professional?  Maybe not. But criminal?  Not at all.

The divisive Hill issue is just one of several examples of sports stories veering into the nightly news.  The NFL and Colin Kaepernick situation is another disturbing example of free speech being challenged in this country.

At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter what someone does for a living, what ethnic groups he or she belongs to or political party affiliation.  If someone wants to call the president a white supremacist, he or she should be allowed to do so, regardless of whether those comments are appropriate or not. We’ve grown so politically correct and so scared that we feel the need to censor anything that might be offensive to someone.

This sort of culture jeopardizes our rights to express our opinions, no matter how much backlash it may receive. Was it appropriate for Hill to use twitter to make her comments? Who cares! Appropriateness is subjective. Would it have been better or worse if she made her comments on air? In a face to face conversation with a friend? It doesn’t matter. As a society, we need to grow a spine, and learn to accept criticism from people even if we don’t know or respect them.

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