Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Guillen and the First Amendment

By now, most of you have probably heard that Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was suspended for five games for comments he made supporting Fidel Castro. (If you have not heard the story, you can read more from FOX News here.)

The majority of reactions I have seen (especially through social media) have commented on a supposed violation of Guillen's first amendment rights. One person wrote, "I hope he sues under the 1st amendment, we are a free country after all".

This illustrates how ignorant our country has become about our Constitutional rights and freedoms. The freedom of speech provision gives a person the right to say anything he or she wants to say, but it does not mean that person can say anything without consequence. The first amendment's limitations only apply to Congress. If the Miami Marlins or Major League Baseball feel that Guillen's statements are detrimental to the team or the league, they have the right to take action against him.

In a world where a person's reputation actually meant something, the limitation on free speech was the public shame that would come from the backlash due to ridiculous or idiotic comments. Even today, that limitation applies to a certain extent. The members of Westboro Baptist Church may have the right to protest at funerals for our military members and other high-profile celebrities, but very few people take anyone at the church seriously due to their actions. The Marlins are rightfully justified for taking action against statements that will likely offend many of their fans, and hopefully, Guillen will learn that the right to free speech only applies in the eyes of the law and not in the eyes of the employer.

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