Censorship Gone Wild: United States Bridge Federation Edition

From 21st Century Citizen:

“With America at war in Iraq and Afghanistan — should people still be allowed to speak out freely? And at what point does criticism of the Government or of the President cross the line? Is there — or should there be — any line that can be crossed to make Freedom of Speech no longer a guaranteed right?”

I read this post on 21st Century Citizen, a site dedicated to exploring the values of the new 21st Century Citizen. The site is one of my favorites and commonly writes about sustainability and the actions necessary to preserve our planet. In this instance they are raising the question of free speech and the weight citizens place on it. The impedius for this is their reporting of the United States Bridge Federation attempting to punish one of their own teams for speaking out against President Bush after winning an International Bridge Tournament. The team had taken abuse from some of the foreign teams for the actions of the U.S. Government. So, the team acting like more than half of the country feels, held up a makeshif sign at the awards ceremony saying ‘We didn’t vote for Bush’. The USBF, acting swiftly, moved that they be cut off from all competitions - threatening the team’s ability to make a living – for speaking out against the country it represents in International bridge tournaments. (Read that last line again.) 

So, back to that scary paragraph at the beginning – inspired by the censorship of a bridge team. I commend the site for raising the question. It’s not often that you read about the denial of free speech in such pure terms. The scarey part is how it’s phrased is so simple and thought provoking – is there a point where criticism crosses the line? The answer to that? God no. That’s the foundation of free speech – there is no line. No boundaries for speaking your mind. When we start punishing our citizens – and as representatives of our country in an international competition there is no greater portrayal of a citizen – we slide to a level of impending communism seen in countries that we have liberated. Is anyone else terrified of this? If not, you should be. Today it’s the bridge club – what will it be tomorrow?
 

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10 responses to “Censorship Gone Wild: United States Bridge Federation Edition

  1. I agree with you. Freedom of speech is an absolute. You have it or you don’t. You can’t have it with exceptions. That’s like being a little pregnant. But I see the point of members following the “party line” as well. If I went ahead and discussed issues openly, that a harmful to my company (not talking illegal), I would have to live with the fact, that they’ll probably sack me for it… How to differentiate?

  2. A little pregnant – that’s a great example.

    I agree; if you have to guard your opinion to protect your job, you obviously know that ahead of a time and keep your thoughts to yourself.

    However, was that outlined to the players ahead of time? I don’t know.

    Just to show that I believe in discussing both sides of the story, here is a link to a different opinion:

    http://www.nationalcenter.org/2007/11/us-bridge-federation-has-constitutional.html

    I’m unsure of the point they’re trying to make. Regardless, it’s in the gray a bit. They’re claiming this is Freedom of Assembly, not Freedom of Speech. So those opposed should challenge the dismissal as a violation of Freedom of Assembly? Or are they saying if the women would have simply said ‘we didn’t vote for Bush’ instead of holding up a sign then it would’ve been ok? I mean, they didn’t form the assembly; they were part of the awards ceremony, so they weren’t assembling on their own accord.

    Now I’m really confused. Oh well. Like I always say, the speech is free – it’s the results that’ll cost you.

  3. Pingback: Bush-bashing blogger baffled by bridge brouhaha « Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

  4. Looks like they sorta worked it out.
    11/20/07
    “JOINT STATEMENT BY THE USBF BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND THE PLAYERS OF THE 2007 VENICE CUP-WINNING TEAM

    The United States Bridge Federation (USBF) and the players on the US Venice Cup world championship bridge team are pleased to mutually announce that we have resolved all issues relating to events that occurred at the closing ceremony of the 2007 World Bridge Championship in Shanghai. We all believe that it is in the best interests of bridge to put this behind us so that we can focus on playing the game we love.

    The USBF Board has dismissed all charges against the players on the Venice Cup team.

    The players of the USA1 Venice Cup Championship team recognize that it is a legitimate request of the USBF, when sending teams to represent the United States, that all players refrain from using the stage for the Medal Ceremonies as a platform for anything other than receiving their medals.

    For the future the USBF will make certain that the Guidelines are clearer as to what is expected.

    We all look forward to resuming our mutual enjoyment of bridge and to working together to promote the game.”

  5. As a bridge player I am ashamed of the 6 members of the women’s championship bridge team for the unAmerican sign they displayed. They put themselves on th same level as the actors who brazingly display their anti-American signs or comments at the Oscar Awards.
    They forever will be remembered for their stance and not their bridge accomplishment!
    Shame on the Fed. for lack of a back bone.

  6. Pingback: Bridge players thankful to be reinstated « The Burger.

  7. Christine-

    Thank you for your comments. Of course I don’t agree with them but I will always defend your right to voice an opinion about it. Can you imagine if that right was taken away? Fortunately that didn’t happen to the bridge players as they were reinstated.

    I hope you keep reading The Burger.

    Thanks!

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  10. Fred A, Fairbanks

    Does the right of free speech include the right to misuse it to falsely propagandize and destroy the greatest 200 years of advancement the human race has ever known?

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