BLM, Goodyear, and the Censoring of Free Speech

by Christopher Paslay

Either ban all political slogans or provide an honest forum open to all perspectives.   

There’s an old saying that used to govern corporate H.R. departments and most social gatherings: Don’t talk about religion or politics.  Religion and politics — while extremely important and necessary — can be quite polarizing, and have the tendency to hurt feelings and damage friendships, and alienate employees and customers.

This hasn’t stopped corporate America (as well as schools and sports) from pumping-in politics by the boat-load, embedding partisan messaging and agendas in their products, services, and curriculum for all to see.  

Recently the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company went down this slippery slope.  A leaked slide from an employee training course at the Goodyear Topeka plant revealed a discriminatory policy that allowed Black Lives Matter shirts and apparel to be worn by employees, but not Blue Lives Matter (5 Dallas officers were shot and killed at a BLM protest in 2016) or All Lives Matter clothing.  After Goodyear’s stock took a nosedive overnight, dropping more than 4%, the company scrambled to explain it was all simply a misunderstanding, that the slide was not representative of the national office, and that their policies do not allow for political speech in the workspace.

Goodyear issued a clarification, which said in part:    

To be clear on our longstanding corporate policy, Goodyear has zero tolerance for any forms of harassment or discrimination. To enable a work environment free of those, we ask that associates refrain from workplace expressions in support of political campaigning for any candidate or political party, as well as similar forms of advocacy that fall outside the scope of racial justice and equity issues.

Goodyear’s response lays bare the obvious political games America’s corporations (as well as schools and sports) are playing with semantics.  What are “racial justice” and “equity issues” if not political?  This obfuscating language is simply a way to deem some forms of political speech more legitimate than others, and is a tactic that’s being employed by many across America. While you may agree with the goal of equity and justice for all, you may choose to express this by believing All Lives Matter.  

But this is not acceptable according to the gradians of today’s woke culture, a network of openly partisan gatekeepers who get to define terms and language (the way Robin DiAngelo has redefined “whiteness” to mean inherent racism), and who not only control which politics are deemed acceptable, but what even qualifies as “politics” at all; the political agenda underlying BLM is so deep, partisan, and well-funded, it’s ludicrous to suggest this organization/slogan is not political.  

Mascaraing under the guise of “equity” and “racial justice” is the latest tactic to silence opposing political points of view while keeping other political agendas front and center.  Chloe Clark, an English professor at Iowa State University, was forced to correct her syllabus after informing her students that they could not submit work that opposes Black Lives Matter, abortion, and other social issues.  Although the university said in a statement that the syllabus “was inconsistent with the university’s standards and its commitment to the First Amendment rights of students,” the fact that Clark felt she could openly censor free speech in such a manner is a cause for concern.

Earlier this summer Starbucks, in an effort to keep their image clean and stay out of the muck of political controversy, issued a policy that barred employees from engaging in political speech at work.  The company explicitly stated that BLM attire was prohibited under its dress code policy, which did not allow for any kind of political expression to be worn, because it could incite violence, controversy, or unrest. Interestingly, this policy only lasted several days before the political might of BLM forced Starbucks to reverse its decision and announce its support of Black Lives Matter; all other forms of political expression, such as All Lives MatterBlue Lives Matter, or Unborn Lives Matter, are still banned.   

The NBA is perhaps the highest profile supporter of BLM, and one of the biggest censors of free speech it doesn’t agree with.  The league has not only painted Black Lives Matter on their Orlando court, but also allows for players to wear the name of the activist organization on the backs of their jerseys as well, along with over a dozen approved so-called “social justice” slogans; these slogans all fall within the narrow window of perceived equity and racial justice, and the phrases All Lives MatterBlue Lives Matter, and Unborn Lives Matter are prohibited.

The phrase Free Hong Kong is also banned.  In an effort to bring awareness to the human rights atrocities being committed by the Chinese government against Hong Kong protesters in October of 2019 (such as police clubbing demonstrators and shooting teenage protesters), Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for pro-democracy demonstrators.  The tweet tarnished the NBA’s extremely lucrative relationship with China, so Morey became an instant outcast.

Lebron James, at an effort at damage control, stated that Morey was “misinformed” or “not really educated,” suggesting that the clubbing and shooting of Hong Kong protesters by the Chinese police (and the fact that the Chinese Communist Party has arbitrarily detained between 1 million and 3 million Uighurs in so-called “reeducation centers” and forced them to undergo psychological indoctrination programs), was some kind of misunderstanding.  Incredibly, when NBA fans tried to side with Hong Kong protesters and design “Free Hong Kong” NBA jerseys on-line, the NBA first blocked — then completely disabled — the personalized apparel option on its website. 

The polarizing, agenda-driven BLM movement still has a home on NBA courts and player jerseys, however.  But this kind of selective political censorship doesn’t sit well with everyone. Former NFL all-pro defensive end Marcellus Wiley, who is African American, said he thought the NBA painting “Black Lives Matter” on the court was a bad idea.  He stated on the FOX Sports 1 show:

There’s a problem with when you start to go down this road of the freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and how much social space is allowed for those who don’t support in that same space, and that’s where I wonder where this is going to go in terms of identity politics. We know what identity politics does: it divides and it polarizes.

Wiley also highlighted concerns over Black Lives Matter’s mission statement, whose goal is to “dismantle the patriarchy” and “disrupt the Western prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.” Wiley explained many people have not taken time to read or understand BLM saying, “I don’t know how many people really look into the mission statement of Black Lives Matter, but I did, and when you look at it, there’s a couple things that jump out to me.”  

According to The Federalist:  

Wiley went on to explain why BLM is detrimental to Black families and personal success. He said that growing up, he observed friends who didn’t have intact family structures and they “found themselves outside of their dreams and goals and aspirations.” Wiley cited data backing up his observations about children raised in a single-parent home: “[They] are 5 times more likely to commit suicide, 6 times more likely to be in poverty, 9 times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 14 times more likely to commit rape, 20 times more likely to end up in prison, 32 times more likely to run away from home.” 

These facts brought up by Wiley don’t seem to concern the NBA, or the NEA, for that matter; the National Education Association, the largest teachers union in America, has officially embraced the BLM movement, promoting BLM’s goals and mission statements in official BLM curriculum.

The ultimate issue, however, is not the agenda of BLM, but the limiting of free speech.  Either ban all political slogans or provide an honest forum open to all perspectives.  Doing otherwise is dishonest and un-American, and a violation of the First Amendment.   

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