Oliver Wendell Holmes is credited with a phrase that, paraphrased, suggests your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. This phrase was, loosely, the jumping off point for one of my favorite professors at Mizzou. It was a political science class about Supreme Court decisions, and it was one of the most rigorous classes I've ever taken, and it led directly to the topic I studied abroad. Still with me? I'll try not to bore you. But what the professor said was essentially this:
The freedom of speech and expression is not freedom from repercussions of that speech or expression.
It's a protected right from the government.
I don't have complete freedom of speech right here and right now in this chat -- oh, the government isn't going to close it down for anything I said. But we can all think of 4,567 things I might type that would get me fired. I have the freedom to say them. How quickly would someone on here try to "cancel" me for doing so? At least one person right now is reading this hoping I slip ...
I do not have a freedom from the consequence of what I say.
We are all accountable for what we say.
You have the same freedom to say something that I have to criticize what you've said.
Your freedom to say something is different in your dining room than it is in your office, or at Target, or in a movie theater, or in school, or -- if you want to belch out something particularly insulting -- at the bar, because your right to say it does not give you the freedom from those consequences. Eventually vile words are going to hit someone in the nose who doesn't appreciate them.
To me, Curt Schilling has every right to say what he wants. He has said some reprehensible, vile, disgusting, wrongheaded, and violent things -- some of which he's said about journalists. I'll champion the right he has to say those things, just as I will champion the fact that he is not free from criticism or the consequences of those statements. They might spill out of his mouth or off his fingers into the world -- but he still owns them, and the ramifications.
I voted for Schilling. It made me uneasy, queasy to do so, and I received many emails and thoughts on Twitter where people were eager to express their freedom of speech to question my ability to be a father, to be a model for my son.
Imagine getting those. I read every single one.
People made a lot of assumptions about me as a person, as a father.
I voted for Schilling because I approach my ballot like I do an article, and two things -- 1) I didn't need to use the character clause as a scalpel to reduce my ballot to the allowed 10 players and 2) I felt, journalistically, I could make the case that he's a Hall of Famer regardless of the violence he seemed to advocate against the journalist. Some of my best friends in the business disagree with me, and they are just as right as me -- because they came to that decision with honesty in their heart. I was going to disprove him with my vote, be the journalist he says I am not, and use my platform here to be critical of what he said -- not critical of his right to say it, but what he said. And I will continue to do that.
Ballots were due before Jan. 1. What he said in the weeks that followed were just as awful and reprehensible, and alarming.
Let's not be naive, however, that the character clause hasn't been used by voters before. It has for a long time. I appreciate your use bully pulpit. In the past, it's been used as a shield -- something to hide behind to avoid to the tough call. This isn't a new thing. If anything, the transparency of voters today and the conversation we're able to have about the voting process because of that transparency makes the current, modern voting for the Hall of Fame the most transparent and accountable of any of the major sports at any time. Period.
And thanks to Prof. Rick Hardy at Mizzou for everything he taught me. He assured us we would use what we learned in his class in any arena we entered. He was right.