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Ben Fraser is a centre-right student in Journalism at Concordia University.

Free speech in sports should go both ways

With the craze surrounding the U.S national anthem protests taking the world by storm, it is once again time to discuss what this latest protest means for the conservation of free speech in North America.


To me, the protests embody what is great about the western world—the ability to gather and demonstrate when we do not agree with what is being done, or are experiencing an injustice. It is a real shame that partisan lines have been drawn in an that should be a concern for both liberals and conservatives.


When former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started his protest about a year ago, his intentions were not malicious. He saw an injustice, and he did what he thought would bring attention to said injustice. I do not agree with Kaepernick position, nor do I agree with the method in which he protested. However, free speech is a right that everyone holds, and he deserves to have his message heard.


The problem is both the political left and right have bastardized Kaepernick’s original message so much, many have forgotten what the original issue was. President Trump only stirred the pot with his various tweets denouncing the players, and the protests are now about a completely different subject.


The protests have made one particular issue come to light , and that is the blatant hypocrisy surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins decision to visit the White House, as is routine for the Stanley Cup winners. To be fair, the Penguins announcing their decision on the same day the Golden State Warriors were uninvited from the White House was short-sighted, but a White House visit isn’t a bad thing.


The National Hockey League has always been the more apolitical of the four major North American sports leagues, so the decision isn’t a surprise. However, the reaction from those on the left is absolutely infuriating to me.


In 2012, then-Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas did not visit the White House with the Bruins under the Obama administration, and he was vilified for it.


This was apparent in a Jan. 24th, 2012 Bleacher Report article by James Hardy. One paragraph in particular caught my eye, in which Hardie said, “Now, if Thomas was a real man, he would have gone to the Boston Bruins management and ownership, returned the money from his contract and quit the balance of it by retiring–so he could exercise his rights as a free citizen.”


In another article written around the same time, by Joe McDonald of ESPN, McDonald said, “when the president of the United States invites you and all your teammates to the White House to honor your Stanley Cup championship, you go and represent the team.”


Funny, I didn’t see any similar statement defending the opposite side of the argument. It doesn’t get any more hypocritical than this, and I am tired of liberals claiming the moral high ground on the protests. I’ll be clear: I don’t agree with what Thomas did in 2012, but again, it is his right to choose.


The left has won the culture war—that isn’t up for debate. Those who wish to see an end to the protests are seen as racists, bigots, and menaces to progress. While people like Steph Curry are seen as heroes for not accepting the invitation.


People on the left need to realize we all have the right to free speech, whether you like what someone is saying or not. I don’t agree with the protests, nor the Warriors decision not to go to the White House, but I will always stand up for those who have the right to their own opinions.


Personally, I am sick of hearing about this everyday. You don’t like the President!? Good for you, don’t visit Trump. You respect the institution of the White House and will be going? Fantastic, have fun in Washington!


Enough is enough! It is a shame that Kaepernick’s choice will likely cost him his career in the NFL—and I don’t think it should. However, Kaepernick has made his bed, and now he’s got to sleep in it.


I hope that, one day, politics and sports reach some sort of standstill, where players are free to express their opinions without backlash from either side. Until then, they will be entwined together, hopefully not in a death spiral.