Precinct 333

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

How Should Fans Respond?

Carlos Delgado the newly-signed first baseman for the Florida Marlins, refuses to stand for God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch. That is his right. His actions are appropriate in form, time, and place. So says Howard Wasserman of the Florida International University College of Law. And to be honest, I’d have to agree with him.

An essential element of free speech is the right to counter-speak, protest and dissent from the original message. Delgado does that by declining to stand, but he does so in a way that in no way interferes with the ability of the Marlins, his teammates or the fans to make their statements through the song. Nor can it be that Delgado has forfeited his right to protest U.S. policies because he makes $13 million per year. Attaining financial success cannot rob one of the right to criticize government and society.

The other simple answer is that fans remain free to counter-protest Delgado's protest. They can sing God Bless America louder. They can display signs reaffirming their support for U.S. policy and signs criticizing Delgado for his dissent. They can boo him.

In fact, it might be interesting to see what happens when Marlins fans' political passions collide with their passion to root for the home team. On the other hand, many fans may support Delgado, either because they agree with his position or simply because they respect his willingness to take a stand by not standing.
The point is that this exchange of views on weighty matters, initiated by one ballplayer willing to speak out, occurs comfortably in the public forum that is a Major League baseball game.

But fans in Florida are, as Wasserman points out, perfectly within their right to make their voices heard. Or better yet, to not make their voices heard. How about if Marlins fans refuse to cheer, refuse to boo, and refuse to acknowledge anything that Delgado does on the field.

After all, he’s really not all that important, and baseball can and will go on without him.


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