The Hypocrisy of Free Speech: It Costs Too Much to Be Honest…

I am convinced that many people are living in a bubble that feeds the idea that the United States is a “free nation”. Our national infrastructure suggests to many that we have the right to certain rights as a people–life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For many of my impressionable years, I was told that I could be anything I desired. I was gifted, talented, and skilled enough to pursue any position, goal, or objective. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that the premise had validity, but the execution possessed many caveats. 

I remember going to Liberty Christian Academy in Columbus, OH. I was very capable in the classroom. My grades were always on par with my counterparts. Many of us with melaninized hue were the cream of the crop academically. One year, I watched as one of my friends, Siobhan, was preparing to graduate. It was universally accepted and known that Siobhan was the smartest and most involved student at Liberty. Her GPA was out of this world. Nobody…….and I mean….NOBODY,  expected her to be in the role of sharing Valedictorian with anybody. Suddenly, I witnessed my first extreme level of injustice. She shared the honor with another student. We all knew that it was not right, but we never spoke up publically. Why? Inheriently, we knew the cost would be too much. 

Colin Kaepernick has become the face of penalty for using free speech. Sports writers, radio hosts, and others have debated the validity of this gentleman not having a role on one of the 32 NFL teams. Despite having stats that would at minimum would allow for him to be a second string quarterback, Kaepernick is without an offer. So what did he do that was so wrong? He had an opinion. He decided to use his platform to express his opinion. Now, he is like many people in our society–unemployed. 

Now in most situations, it might be difficult to have empathy for a man who has made millions of dollars. Most people will never see that much money in their lifetime. Yet, the principle of what has taken place is what has ripped the scab of a never healing wound in this country. I speak to my well meaning, self-proclaimed progressive thinking people. Before you begin to attempt to separate football/sport from activism, allow me to remind you of this perspective. 

Muhammad Ali is known as one of the greatest figures of our time. He passed away and people began praising his life. Interesting. Ali was vilified for taking a stand on religious grounds against the Vietnam War. Many African American athletes during the Civil Rights era aligned themselves with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. They mobilized in order to push change in a society that wanted continuous oppression. They were celebrated for what they could do on the field of play. Yet, they were not embraced for their “free thinking” or ideas. 

For every person that has been an activist in some form, a price was associated with fighting the good fight. Nothing has changed. Colin is paying a price. People are picking apart his existence in order to negate his existence. People are picking through his ideas so that he will become a greater villain than murders, felons, and domestic abusers. The more I hear of the rationale of owners, fans, and others, the more I am reminded that it costs to be real honest. It costs when people are unwilling to examine the whole picture and say “maybe there is something more”. 

I implore every reader to take a few moments to consider that you must recognize the various factors that are at work in this instance and beyond. Accepting everything at face value is the dismissal of various factors and perspectives. I do understand that the NFL is about making money. I recognize that owners are worried about the bottom line. I also concede that the code of a private organization dictate the manner that those who are fortunate to take part are handcuffed in how much they will express. Yet, I believe in the overarching need for people to live prophetic lives that speak truth to power and categorically denounce injustice in any form. I am a believer in the nature of “tossing the money changing tables” for the benefit of those who are pushed away from life changing moments. 

Today, we are called to count the cost. Are we as radical as we claim? Are we people who can speak clearly about the inequality and lack of equity in our society? Is being honest, truthful, and transformative more important than selling out for the status quo? Do not become desensitize in this season of life. Do not dismiss real issues as nothing more than a moment or isolated occurrence. My speech is costly. I might as well make it count…..