Free speech requires courage [Letter]

The Aegis

A letter to The Aegis Open Forum:


Regarding fan behavior at the Oct. 1 Ravens vs. Steelers game:

First, let me commend the entire Ravens organization for their classy, well-intended attempt to create an environment that did not create villains or heroes in the recent controversy around NFL players speaking out about injustices they see before them all too often. This approach could have, and may still, set the stage for the discourse necessary to address very painful realities for which we are all responsible. Free speech is an oxymoron; it is risky, it requires courage, and it is often not without consequences. It is not “free” it is a legal right, but not free.

My wife and I are long term PSL owners and loyal Ravens fans. The fan behavior prior to the singing of the National Anthem was disconcerting, alarming and sad in both the short and long run. The PA announcer clearly stated that the Ravens team was going to take a knee for a moment of prayer PRIOR to the singing of the national anthem. As soon as the team took a knee to pray, the majority of the fans booed very loudly.

Now, I am not much of a church going man, but I do know that taking a knee to pray never warrants booing or any sort of disrespectful behavior. It struck me that the booing fans were looking for something to complain and whine about, even a clearly stated moment of prayer on a knee.

Perhaps this behavior has been stoked and amped up by the “tweets” from the “President” and the incessant repetition of his unnecessary comments on social media; perhaps by conscious or unconscious bigotry; or perhaps, by simple lack of knowledge. No excuse; the booing fans displayed the very behavior they purportedly were protesting. Regardless, it made the Ravens fan base seem uneducated, vindictive and hypocritical.

Our society now tends to pick and choose what “matter” they are offended by. As a further example, my wife was confronted by a woman in the restroom during the game to find out what my wife thought about the booing during the time of prayer- this woman was decked out in all the appropriate “flag” gear and was clearly wanting to make America great again.

My wife expressed her opinion and also told the woman that her own attire with the flag was technically a disrespectful wearing of the flag, according the United States flag code. The woman cursed my wife and stormed out of the restroom. Is such behavior patriotic? Or are we only patriotic when we say what someone wants to hear?

There are far greater problems in our country than the actions of an NFL player prior to a game. Perhaps if the “President” and the fans who booed when the Ravens took a knee to pray BEFORE the National Anthem, paid attention to the real problems our country faces (Institutionalized racism, hurricane relief, homelessness, hunger, poverty, etc.) we could solve those problems. Until such time, we are doomed to the divisiveness that currently impedes the civility necessary to move forward as a nation and world leader which can change lives for the better.

Mike Treherne

Bel Air

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