The right to be a bigot and an idiot

The Rant

March 3, 2000

John Rocker, the Atlanta Brave who pitches baseballs better than he pitches words, issued yet another public apology for his insult of just about every ethnic group in existence in a Dec. 23 Sports Illustrated interview.

Rocker issued the carefully-worded apology as part of a deal to reduce his suspension from professional baseball.

"In reading the article, I realized that in three major areas I have hurt people," Rocker said. It was unintentional, but nevertheless, there was damage done."

"First, I used foul language and I owe an apology to the children and families that see baseball players as role models. I have been a poor example. I was not raised that way, and that kind of language is not used where I come from."

" Secondly, my comments concerning persons afflicted with AIDS, as well as various minority groups, have left people wondering if I am a racist. I will emphasize that I am not a racist, although I can understand how someone who did not know me may think so. Over a three-year period, while I was in the minor leagues, my home in Macon was a place where players from different ethnic groups and countries lived for as long as six months and as short as two weeks. My closest friend is a first-generation Lebanese, with his grandfather coming through Ellis Island no more than 60 years ago."

"As you can see, my actions do not support this racist label. My thoughtless words, however, do show that sometimes I lack the understanding to see the problems that other people face. I apologize to all of those my careless and unkind words have affected."

Rocker was originally suspended for all 45 days of spring training and 28 days of baseball's regular season. That was cut to 14 days of actual playing time and no training time after he agreed to issue the apology. He still must undergo mandated "sensitivity training."

Some are happy with the final outcome, others say Rocker got off easy. Some of the crybabies who complain about everything wanted Rocker tossed out of baseball for life.

We don't, for a second, believe Rocker's apology. No foul language where he grew up? Yeah, right. He cut a deal so he could play baseball. What's unfortunate is that he had to do so.

Like it or not, John Rocker has a right to be whatever he wants. We may not approve of what he said, but in a free society, he is supposed to have the right to say it. The same laws that allow a firebrand like the Rev. Al Sharpton to march on the U.S. Department of Justice this week and call the entire New York justice system racist and bigoted are supposed to also allow John Rocker to express his displeasure of riding with homosexuals with AIDs on the Number 7 train to Brooklyn.

John Rocker may be an insensitive, bigoted idiot, but in a free society he has every right to be one. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has every right to dislike what Rocker said, but that's all. Suspending a player for stupid opinions and requiring "sensitivity training" is a violation of that player's constitutional right to say stupid things and act like an idiot.

Rocker did not advocate killing anyone, as many rap songs on the market today do. He didn't preach violence. He simply said, in a rude and coarse way, that he didn't like mingling with immigrants or sitting next to people of different sexual persuasions. That's his right, just as it is the right of the people he offended to have nothing to do with him or to not buy tickets to watch him play baseball.

More than one New York writer has noted that Rocker's comments, while insensitive, accurately portrayed the normal ridership of the Number 7 train to Brooklyn. So while he may have said it poorly, he apparently didn't say it wrong.

Once society determines that it has the right to restrict the speech of a bigot, it only takes a small step to start restricting the speech of those with differing political views. It's called censorship and a beginning of the end of the rights that are the foundations of this country's freedoms.

(The Rant is a shadowy figure who is rumored to have once worked on Capitol Hill and as a journalist. His, or her, opinions are their own and do not necessarily reflect any editorial view of PoliticsLive! or its owners. We do, however, support his or her right to express them and our right to publish them.)



This Page was created on 12th July, 2000