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Columnists
Other view: Trump imposes political correctness on the NFL

In calling on NFL owners and fans to punish athletes who engage in political protests, President Donald Trump has become a Super Bowl champion of something he purports to oppose: political correctness.

Apparently he’s fine with punishing dissenters, so long as he abhors what the dissenters are saying.

In recent years, many Republicans and conservatives have complained that political correctness — on university campuses, in workplaces and elsewhere — can squelch minority opinions and enforce a left-wing orthodoxy. They’re right.

What they mean is that if those in positions of power punish students, employees and others who dissent from the majority’s view, freedom is at risk, and society suffers. Suppose that students think that abortion is immoral; that affirmative action is a terrible idea; that people have a constitutional right to possess guns; that climate change is not a serious threat; that the Affordable Care Act should be repealed.

If students know that they will be penalized if they say what they think — if they will be ridiculed or ostracized — they will just shut up. People won’t be able to learn from each other.

And note well: On one or more of those issues, those who silence themselves might even be right. So Trump was onto something when he said, “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.”

Like Trump, and many other Americans, I dislike it a lot when athletes refuse to stand for our national anthem. But our commitment to freedom of expression, and our rejection of mandatory conformity, can’t depend on whether we agree with the dissenters.

Call it the neutrality principle. As Justice Robert Jackson put it in 1943, “Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.”

In insisting that owners should fire players who do not stand, and in calling on fans to stop going to football games, Trump brazenly violated the neutrality principle. His words — “Fire or suspend!” — are more than a match for those of the most authoritarian university administrators.

To be sure, Trump’s supporters might point to an important qualification: As a matter of constitutional law, private employers are perfectly entitled to fire protesters. Americans often overlook the fact that the Constitution’s free speech principle applies only to government — federal, state and local officials — and not to the private sector.

That’s true and important. Those who run a business or a private university have a lot of room to maneuver. If you want your employees to be Republicans, or if you want your faculty to be left-of-center, you can do that, as far as the Constitution is concerned. The Constitution’s protection of free speech does not apply to the National Football League.

But because of crucial social norms, our freedom of speech, as we live it, extends far beyond constitutional law.

Countless employers give a strong message to their employees: If you do your job well, we don’t care for whom you vote, or whether you’re spending your spare time on protest activities. Those who run private hospitals do not inquire into the political views of nurses and doctors.

For private universities, the best practice is to insist that what matters is the quality of the argument, not whether it fits with the political convictions of the professor, the majority of the student body, the local community, or the president of the United States.

In a politically divided nation, professional sports are a unifying force. You can celebrate the achievements of Tom Brady, Walter Payton, LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Bill Russell without caring whether they agree with you about immigration, North Korea or climate change.

That’s good for sports. It’s good for fans. And it’s great for players, who know that they won’t be punished if they want to take advantage of a privilege that all Americans enjoy — to take some kind of stand.

Angry that some football players have not stood up for the national anthem, Trump complains of “the total disrespect certain players show to our country.” Maybe so. But to our freedom-loving country and its traditions, his graceless words — “Fire or suspend!” — are more disrespectful still.

Justice Jackson, that great opponent of political correctness, gets the last words: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.”


Mailbag
Letter: Replace Idaho's politicians, not the ACA

Replace Idaho’s politicians,

not the ACA

In rejecting the recent Cassidy-Graham attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act and throw millions of Americans off health insurance, Idaho governor Butch Otter showed Idaho voters who their two U.S. Senators and 1st District Congressman actually serve. And it’s not Idaho families.

Here’s a guess as to whose interests matter to anti-ACA’ers Risch, Crapo, and Labrador more than those of Idaho families: 1) The for-profit health care industry; 2) Insurance companies whose profit comes from denying health care to citizens; 3) Anti-union business groups and right-wing billionaires, who know that a health-care secure American workforce will be more bold in advocating for their interests, to include telling the boss to take his job and shove it; 4) Mean older right-wing hypocrites who already enjoy taxpayer-funded (socialized single-payer) health insurance, aka Medicare, and now don’t want to pay taxes so others can have what they’ve got; 5) Racist fools who would rather allow fellow citizens (largely children) to suffer and even die rather than let a black president succeed in improving the lives and health of all Americans.

Let’s repeal and replace these elected officials, for betraying Idaho families and playing politics with our health and lives.

Chris Norden

Moscow


Columnists
READER COMMENT
Reader Comment: A tradition with a noble mission

As a state, the most important battle we will wage is for the talent who can move our workplaces and economy forward. Investing in the talent we already have within our borders is paramount to these efforts. Keeping Idaho’s best and brightest in our state, and supporting them as they seek the education they need to succeed in a 21st century workforce, is the greatest gift we can give to future generations.

This calling has been at the core of the Idaho Governor’s Cup Scholarship program since its founding in 1974. Gov. Cecil D Andrus recognized the need for a program that carried the weight of the state’s highest office to shine the spotlight on Idaho’s kids and their potential.

In the decades since, hundreds have benefited from the investment and generosity of Idaho companies, community organizations and leaders who step up to sponsor this event year after year. In the past decade alone, 250-plus students from every corner of the state have received Governor’s Cup scholarships which provide $3,000 a year for up to four years for academic recipients and $3,000 a year for up to three years for students who attend career technical education programs in Idaho.

It’s a tradition with an honorable mission. Under the leadership and commitment of Idaho Govs. Cecil Andrus, John Evans, Phil Batt, Dirk Kempthorne, Jim Risch, and now C.L. “Butch” Otter, hundreds of outstanding students have stayed in Idaho for their higher education, benefiting us all through their skill, drive and ambition.

The scholarship can be life-changing, as 2015 recipient and current College of Idaho senior Natash Dacic noted, “I would not have been able to attend such a great college in Idaho and be the first to go to college in my family, build those meaningful connections, and develop the leadership and team working skills that I have built if it wasn’t for scholarships like the Idaho Governor’s Cup.”

We’re extremely proud to share that this year the Governor’s Cup program broke fundraising records — bringing in $1.2 million through our event in Sun Valley Sept. 7-9. Due to the passion and commitment of our sponsors and attendees, 38 students were awarded academic and professional technical scholarships as part of the 2017 class. And the future is bright for 2018.

In honor of the great statesman who started this non-profit scholarship program, and to his commitment to education in Idaho, the Governor’s Cup is proud to have created a Cecil D. Andrus Excellence in Education Scholarship which will be awarded starting in 2018 to an Idaho senior who is planning to attend an Idaho education institution to pursue a career as an educator.

It is up to all of us to continue to make investments in education; and make investments in our next generation. Their — and Idaho’s — future depends on it. To learn more about the amazing students who are furthering their education through this scholarship program, visit www.idahogovernorscup.org/scholarship.

It is up to all of us to continue to make investments in education; and make investments in our next generation. Their — and Idaho’s — future depends on it. To learn more about the amazing students who are furthering their education through this scholarship program, visit www.idahogovernorscup.org/scholarship.