Trump’s NFL Comments Are Not A Threat To Free Speech

[Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports]

Scott Greer Contributor
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President Trump set off a fierce debate over free speech last weekend when he urged NFL owners to fire any player who protests the national anthem.

A lot of people in the media think that Trump’s comments amounted to a serious infringement on the First Amendment, and there were accusations of hypocrisy against the White House when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Department of Justice would work to protect free speech in higher education.

How could a president claim he is going to stand up for free speech when he is having a problem with that right on display at NFL stadiums? That’s how many liberals see the issue, and one went so far as to suggest that the state under Donald Trump is the greatest threat to free expression at the moment.

In an article published Tuesday, The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer dismissed the conservative view that campus suppression of speech is a major problem and is in no way comparable to the grave threat posed to speech by the Trump administration.

“[T]he greatest contemporary threat to free speech comes not from antifa radicals or campus leftists, but from a president prepared to use the power and authority of government to chill or suppress controversial speech, and the political movement that put him in office, and now applauds and extends his efforts,” Serwer writes.

The Atlantic writer argues that Trump and conservative media have used their nefarious powers “to deprive speakers of their livelihoods.” Oddly enough, Serwer’s only semi-legitimate case to prove how conservatives take away the rightful employment of innocent activists is that of Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback a lot of experts believe is out of work due to his talent, not his kneeling.

The employment of the other 200 or so players who have protested the national anthem seems remarkably secure. The same goes for the many college professors who have gone on violent rants against conservatives, white people, police officers and other political foes.

Compare the secure employment of these folks with that of former Seattle Mariners catcher Steve Clevenger. Last year, Clevenger tweeted out some strong criticism of Black Lives Matter and players who kneel for the anthem. He was immediately suspended by the Mariners without pay and hasn’t played a game of baseball since.

Weird the standard sports franchises have for what speech they will protect… (RELATED: Corporations Remain The Biggest Threat To Free Speech)

None of the criticism the kneelers and crazy professors have received from the president or conservative media has somehow suppressed speech.

Nearly the entire NFL came out to demonstrate against Trump’s comments. The only player who has had to apologize for his anthem reaction is Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Alejandro Villanueva, the Bronze Medal-winning Army vet who stood for it while his team waited in the tunnel. (RELATED: Army Ranger NFL Player Says He’s ‘Embarrassed’ Over National Anthem Incident)

Hundreds of professors still freely share their radical opinions on social media. Leftist professors and administrators still exert massive influence over higher education and other institutions.

Trump is not ordering federal agents to storm in and arrest the kneeling players. There is little indication of the president using state power to coerce the league into following his desires. All Trump is doing is using his megaphone to criticize the players.

Now there are a few GOP lawmakers that are hoping to look into how taxpayer money is used to keep these teams alive, but this is hardly fascism. The Atlantic itself has warned in the past of how the NFL has fleeced taxpayers, and the Constitution doesn’t guarantee that sports leagues are entitled to the public troth.

If the people don’t want their money to be used to subsidize the NFL, then lawmakers are right to rectify the matter.

What Serwer’s article amounts to is a complaint that GOP lawmakers and conservative journalists are engaged in fighting the culture war. The implication behind the article is that right-wing outlets should never cover the outrageous comments of professors and should fully endorse multi-millionaire athletes sitting for the anthem.

To do otherwise somehow infringes on free speech.

This is a view shared by many others in the media.

“The US is literally premised on the right of people to freely express their beliefs without fear of reprisal,” CNN commentator Chris Cillizza tweeted in response to the president’s criticism of the NFL.

The New York Times issued an editorial Sunday indicating that Trump’s comments were an attack on the First Amendment.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was pressed by reporters during Monday’s briefing on whether president had a problem with the First Amendment.

It’s a hysteric view to take, especially when students and guest speakers are actually silenced on a regular basis on a college campus. Nobody is silencing these athletes.

But to Serwer, what’s happening on college campuses isn’t necessarily censorship — it’s a conflict of values. “Which is true to an extent, but one side is clearly reigning dominant in this battle of ideas.

“In any society, ideological and social consensus will lead to some ideas being unacceptable to the majority and consigned to the fringe,” he argues.

However, on a college campus, pretty much everything that is not far-left is consigned to the fringe; a development that is not approved of by the rest of society. There is also a large degree of violence and intimidation that comes with the ideological consensus in higher education, as can be discerned from media reports on campus conservatives.

This new consensus is obviously beneficial to liberals like Serwer because it sets the public discourse in their favor. Conservative ideas are tarnished with racism and progressives assume the moral high ground.

Pushback against this process from government officials and lawmakers like Jeff Sessions is unconscionable. State power should not be brought into the matter, and if a student gets his skull cracked by Antifa for wanting to share an unpopular opinion, well then that’s just tough luck.

It’s just the consensus working itself out.

In America’s culture war, the Right is at a massive disadvantage since it has far less cultural power than the Left does. Cultural power matters far more than political power in our country, as seen by how the GOP can’t repeal Obamacare in spite of controlling Congress and the White House.

Until Republicans start using state power in a way that violates the Constitution to stifle opposing opinions, there is no way a person with eyes and ears can believe they pose a bigger threat to free speech.

Cultural power in America is what sets the boundaries of speech in America, and it’s not right-wingers who wield it.

Follow Scott on Twitter and buy his new book, “No Campus for White Men.”