As of this writing, no less than three persons associated, in one way or another, with the National Football League (Dolphins cornerback Don Jones, Vikings assistant coach Mike Priefer and NBC Sports commentator Tony Dungy) have suffered harsh consequences (from stiff fines to suspensions to being subjected to the tortures of “sensitivity training” to physical threats to possible permanent loss of the means to earn a living) for daring to voice opinions that so much as tangentially could even be distantly construed to be not 100 percent supportive of the homosexual lifestyle. In all three cases, the individual has subsequently groveled, lapped up his punishment and disgraced himself by apologizing profusely.
The more I think about the status quo in the NFL regarding this, the more I see that the case as pivotal in terms of the preservation of the constitutional rights of all Americans, be they Christians, athletes, or otherwise. While no one in any way affiliated with the league or the sport has spoken out against this gross injustice, I’m firmly convinced that someone needs to do so – if we are to preserve even a semblance of our fundamental rights in America.
I’m not sure who that “someone” might be, not sure if any of the 1,700-plus “tough guys” in the league has the guts to come forward. Ideally, it would be at least a professed Christian, an icon who’d be sorely missed in his absence, someone at least approaching the twilight of a storied career, preferably the sport’s greatest active player. Ideally, in other words, it would be Peyton Manning. And, ideally, he’d say something like this:
“I’m here to express my alarm at the present trend in the NFL to deny free speech rights to people who express opinions that differ from those of certain pressure groups on the issue of homosexuality – by not only punishing them, but punishing them severely for expressing these opinions. I believe that homosexual behavior is a sin – just as, for example, adultery is a sin. If you trust the Bible, there’s no avoiding this conclusion in either case – it’s all over the book.
“But the fact that my opinion agrees with the Bible is actually immaterial here. What’s material is the right of an American to voice his views without harsh reprisals from established powers.
“What did, for instance, Don Jones do to merit a giant fine, banishment from pre-season drills (which may cost him his roster spot and, with it, his career), or any other type of penalty? He merely tweeted – without a hint of disrespectful language – that he found Michael Sam’s kissing his boyfriend on national daytime TV distressing. It was distressing, just as a married player’s kissing his girlfriend on national TV would be distressing. And I imagine that the vast majority of the fans who pay all our salaries would agree.
“But the popularity or unpopularity of an opinion is likewise immaterial to this discussion. The First Amendment is what’s at stake – these individuals’ right, my right and your right to express our convictions. If such rights no longer exist in America, we need to restore them, or there will be no America; it’s that crucial.
“Chris Kluwe has made it his personal crusade to campaign on the other side of this issue, and I strongly defend his right to wage that crusade. It’s unfortunate that he doesn’t want to afford me, or Jones, or Mike Priefer, or Tony Dungy the same rights, but I defend his right to that stance, as well. Still, when he advocates for a lifetime ban on coaching – at any level – for Priefer (and when influential people appear to take such demands very seriously), that’s when it gets frightening, that’s when I get my back up, and that’s when I know it’s got to stop.
“That’s my position. I’m not going to apologize. I shouldn’t have to apologize – and I’m not going to sensitivity training. If the league or my team wants to suspend me, or ban me for life, then so be it; in either case, I’ll sue, but I’m willing to risk the outcome. This matter is bigger than football, bigger than athletic glory, bigger, even, than my livelihood. This has to do with fundamental – dare I say God-given – rights. Nothing on this earth is bigger than that.”
If the NFL wants to pick a fight with a Peyton Manning, or, say, a Drew Brees, or even some courageous Christian near the beginning of his promising career (like a Robert Griffin III?), it will have its hands full, particularly if we, as liberty-loving fans, in turn stand behind him. The league knows we can break its financial back by “voting with our feet,” and that’s what I’m proposing, unless and until freedom of speech is reinstated in the profession.
But we do need someone, someone with currency, to display the integrity to be the first to stand up and tell the emperor he’s naked.
That’s my position. I couldn’t be more in earnest, and I plan to work tirelessly toward its consummation. I ask that freedom-loving Americans, people of faith and anyone else with a modicum of a sense of justice prayerfully consider joining me. United, we can prevail. Please sign the petition to restore free speech to the NFL.