Public opinion should not damn free speech — even when it hurts

Free speech in America is not a special privilege, but a constitutional right, and the national vexation over a hoop-team owner’s private comments — lawlessly taped, and considered vile enough to have him fired, fined, and banished — is too un-American for words.

Brave Americans have died on the battlefield to defend and preserve our liberty to say what we want without fear of retribution, but their sacrifices are in vain if we persecute the spoken word, potentially dooming our other fundamental rights.

National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver committed a First Amendment foul when he imposed a lifetime ban on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for telling his girlfriend not to bring blacks to games. The law of the land allows Sterling to have his racist say, and his right to free speech is upheld by the Supreme Court which claims the important immunity is “the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom.”

The Sterling case highlights a more sinister prejudice that mere words cannot express, in the entrenched judgement gap between white and black bigotry. The kangaroo court of public opinion crucifies white racists, but passes on black supremacists, making racial justice as flimsy as the thin undershirt that clings to the inside of an eggshell: CBS canned late sports commentator Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder for saying black athletes were genetically superior to whites, but City University of New York refused to bounce African Studies professor Leonard Jeffries for claiming whites were cold and cruel “ice people,” blacks were warm and compassionate “sun people,” and Jews were like “skunks” who “stunk up everything.”

Black blockheads are the biggest culprits of using the N-word, a repugnant abuse of free speech if ever there was one, but their lofty apologists couldn’t care less. President Obama thought Sterling’s comments, which did not include the N-word, were “incredibly offensive,” yet his inner circle includes hatemonger Al Sharpton who has called ancient Greeks “homos” and former Mayor David Dinkins the N-word in what are some of his small-fry racist lobs.

Foul-mouthed, former drug-dealer-turned-rapper Jay-Z felt no heat for proudly wearing a saucer-sized medallion representing the Five Percent Nation to a Nets game last month, despite the group’s declaration that “white people are devils.”

Nobody appeared similarly hot under the collar when former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott sported a swastika-patterned necktie to a sports event, or when basketball big mouth Charles Barkley stated, “I hate white people,” or when Shaquille O’Neal dismissed Chinese basketball player Yao Ming as “ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-so,” or when boxing champ Floyd Mayweather pummeled Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao with a racist, homophobic rant, calling him “a little yellow chump” and vowing to “cook him with some cats and dogs.”

The founding fathers understood that even complete morons deserve verbal latitude in civil society, even if it offends broader sensibilities, because free speech is a democratic pillar without which all that we cherish and take for granted would cease to exist or matter.


Read Shavana Abruzzo's column every Friday on BrooklynDaily.com. E-mail here at [email protected].