Don Jones, Michael Sam and Freedom of Speech – From the Bird’s Nest
Miami Dolphins defensive back Don Jones was suspended and fined over the weekend after making comments on his Twitter account about Rams’ seventh round draft pick Michael Sam’s embrace and kiss with his same-sex partner following the announcement that he had been drafted.
“OMG’ and “Horrible” is what he had to say.
The Dolphins, who have had some well documented locker room news over the off-season, acted quickly.
Watching social media the last couple of days has been interesting. Many (mostly leaning to the right, I am sure) are defending Jones’ rights under the First Amendment. Many others (mostly leaning left) are saying “Good for the Dolphins.”
Now, let me start by saying this. I am a journalist. I believe in the First Amendment right to free speech. Strongly. Fiercely. Without exception. I am exercising that right this very moment.
But Jones’ comments don’t have anything to do with the First Amendment.
For those who haven’t read it recently, here’s what it says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The GOVERNMENT cannot stop you from exercising that right.
I’m still looking for where it says “Miami Dolphins.”
I would never suggest Mr. Jones didn’t have the right to say what he did on his own personal Twitter account. Some have used the term “private.” Um…there’s nothing about Twitter that is private.
Nope. I’m going to defend Mr. Jones right to feel the way he feels, and express it through his Twitter account.
I’m also going to defend the Miami Dolphins for their reaction and subsequent decision concerning the controversy.
Did the Dolphins overreact? Perhaps. That organization, more than any other, is going to err on the side of caution because of the bullying stories that came out during the offseason. But that isn’t the point, either.
Mr. Jones is an employee of the Miami Dolphins. As his employer, the Dolphins have every right to discipline, fine, suspend, or even fire him for those comments. As a public figure, anything Mr. Jones says on Twitter is going to reflect on the company he works for. Now, YOU might be able to say it with no penalty. A professional football player? Notsomuch.
The government does not own the National Football League. The government does not have the right to tell Mr. Jones what he can or cannot say. They haven’t. The government also does not have the right to suggest Mr. Sam cannot show emotion and affection to the person he loves when he hears the announcement of something that has been a dream since he was a little boy.
Ironically, Mr. Jones was a seventh round pick of the Dolphins, just as Mr. Sam was. He, above all, should understand the elation that comes with that phone call.
In my profession, I write a lot of opinion pieces. I am expected to do so. But I’m also expected to meet a certain standard, even in my own Twitter account. My company can, and will hold me responsible for anything I might say that would put my employers in a bad light.
That doesn’t infringe on my First Amendment rights.
You can applaud Mr. Sam. You can be repulsed by him. You can applaud Mr. Jones. Or you can be disgusted by him. But here’s what you can’t do.
You can’t blame the government. You can’t stand behind the First Amendment. And, you can’t blame an employer for making a decision to discipline an employee.