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The latest expression of white tribalism prompted by the protests in Ferguson is the disavowal of the St. Louis Rams football team by a local bar after some of the players signaled their support of the Ferguson activists by appearing on the field with their arms in the symbolic “hand up” position adopted by protestors. According to the report in the Huffington Post, the bar owners felt it incumbent upon themselves to signal their tribal allegiances by vowing on social media to switch their loyalties from the hometown team to the Kansas City Chiefs, while urging “customers to ‘stand up to thugs who destroy our community’.”  Yeah, they used the word “thugs”!  

When they experienced pushback for equating athletes exercise of free speech with thugery, the representatives of the bar suddenly decided that free speech was important after all – for themselves, at least, if not for the Rams players, responding with this opus:

Just to clarify our point of view at Time Out.

We SUPPORT FREEDOM OF SPEECH

We SUPPORT PEACEFULL DEMONSTRATION

We are NOT TAKING SIDES ON THE FERGUSON TRAGEDY

We DISAGREE WITH BRINGING THE PROTEST TO A NATIONWIDE PROFESSIONAL SPORTING EVENT.

We welcome all opinions because we believe in the first amendment, just PLEASE respect each other!

Just to clarify our point of view at Time Out. We SUPPORT FREEDOM OF SPEECH We SUPPORT PEACEFULL DEMONSTRATION We are NOT TAKING SIDES ON THE FERGUSON TRAGEDY We DISAGREE WITH BRINGING THE PROTEST TO A NATIONWIDE PROFESSIONAL SPORTING EVENT. We welcome all opinions because we believe in the first amendment, just PLEASE respect each other!

Yeah, sure. they’re not taking sides. And to make sure you know it, they used lots of capital letters.  And, of course, pigs fly. A commercial, publicly accessible bar can take a stand, but athletes can’t because more people see football games than patronize the Time Out. Have you ever noticed that folks in this particular tribe (the one that camps on the right side of the river), always seem to think that freedom of speech is sooooo important, except when it doesn’t support their point of view?

Nor is it just the athletic arena that is supposed to be free of real life. Remember when some St. Louis symphony goers got all huffy because they were subjected to a short, respectfully orchestrated protest at a performance that asked them to spare a few minutes from their comfortable and cultured complacency in order to witness a moving reminder that life isn’t nearly so nice for young men like Michael Brown?

This free speech for me, but not you attitude is not new; it’s status quo in conservative circles where every day Fox news clones are all atwitter over some liberal’s exercise of free speech that, in turn, causes logic-challenged wingers to go ballistic. In the political sphere, I think it was George W. Bush who made a habit of restricting “free speech” to reservations far away from media attention, effectively censoring the expression of opposition sentiment. Such “free speech zones” have since them become routine.

This carefully monitored, almost private exercise of free speech  is evidently what the folks at the Time Out Sports Bar & Grill expect to be the norm when it involves a point of view they don’t like. If a few individuals had stood up on national TV at the Rams game and made a show of their unconditional support for anyone who wears a police badge, I bet we wouldn’t have heard a peep from them.  Just like the folks who try to censor the opposition by segregating them in free speech zones also insist on extending freedom of speech to a rich man or corporations’ pocket-book. But hey, rich men are always right and corporations, unlike Rams’ players and other thugs, are people. We’ve all learned over the past few election cycles that dollar bills create their own free speech megaphone when they speak.