Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Free speech, even at a baseball game.

I've been perplexed why I haven't seen more on free speech from others on the left. Recently, I've made two free speech posts (defending the right of the Mohammed cartoonists to publish their cartoons and then later defending the right of Holocaust denier David Irving to publish his particular brand of filth. This should not be a left/right issue. You may not be protected from the consequences of what you say (whether it be getting fired, being sued or being held to public ridicule) but you should have the legal right to say it, anywhere, anytime.

As such, I was disappointed to hear about a story related to the World Baseball Classic.

The story involves the Cuban team. You may remember, that the Bush administration originally refused to even allow them to play in the tournament. They fortunately changed their minds-- the tournament should not be about petty differences between governments, and the Cuban team is as welcome as any other to participate. Heck, in a historical context, I'm not even sure why the Bush administration wouldn't welcome them, since in the past most Cuban groups of any type that have been allowed to travel to the U.S. have resulted in a defection or two.

During Cuba's 7-3 loss to the Dominican Republic last night, a group of anti-Castro fans wore shirts with the slogan 'Fidel Abajo,' (down with Fidel). They were told by stadium security that they either had to leave or cover the shirts. They also had a sign that said the same thing, which stadium security tore down.

The Cuban squad took umbrage at this, missing a post-game press conference (wonder if they would have missed it if they'd won the game).

I take umbrage too: umbrage that the protestors were told to cover their shirts. Frankly, what they had on them was pretty tame, considering some of the rhetoric that comes out about the United States in the periodic anti-American demonstrations in Havana. Stadium security was wrong. If someone wanted to come with a sign praising Fidel, they could do that too, but it isn't up to stadium security to tell people what they could or could not wear (unless it violated a nudity ordinance or something, but that wasn't an issue here).

Now, I can understand that the Cubans were probably used to playing in an environment where no one would dare put up such a sign or wear such a shirt at a baseball game (no, I'm not a right winger-- but a dictator is a dictator, and calling Fidel Castro anything else is an insult to reality). And they are probably mad about losing the game and would rather blame something else besides their poor job of pitching to David Ortiz. But this isn't Cuba, and if I want to wear a shirt that says down with Castro, Bush, or any other leader, I have the right to wear it.

I agreed with those who argued (and successfully) that the Cubans should have the right to come here to play baseball. But now that they are here, let's remember why we are lucky to be living here and not there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said, Eli.