Defending Truth Part 2: Ethical Reasoning & Free Speech – Another Black Eye for the NFL

Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 “Do not take to heart every word people say… for you know that many times you yourself have cursed others.”

“I just asked a simple question. Let’s get right down to it. I can realistically look at it, I see the images on TV. People’s livelihoods are being destroyed, businesses are being burned down, no problem. And then we have a dust-up at the Capitol. Nothing burned down. And we’re going to make that a major deal. If we apply the same standard, and we’re going to be reasonable with each other, let’s have a discussion.”

This was defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, of the NFL’s Washington Commanders, suggesting we discuss the difference between the January 6th Capital riot and the 2020 riots after George Floyd’s murder.

Del Rio also tweeted “Would love to understand ‘the whole story’ about why the summer of riots, looting, burning and the destruction of personal property is never discussed but this is??? #CommonSense.”

Del Rio has been ostracized for two things: describing the Capital Riot as a “dust up,” and his presumed insensitivity to what sparked the 2020 riots – the outrage over the murder of George Floyd. But he is voicing his opinion – and it’s a good one. Shouldn’t we all see the double standard in the lack of scrutiny on the 2020 riots compared to the 18 months (and counting) of scrutiny on the January 6th Capital riot?

Head Coach Ron Rivera fined Del Rio $100,000: “Our organization will not tolerate any equivalency between those demanding justice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the actions of those on January 6 who sought to topple our government. Coach Del Rio understands the distinction between the events of that dark day and peaceful protests, which are a hallmark of our democracy.”

First, Rivera and the Commanders organization see the Riots of 2020 as “peaceful”. The NY Times reported “In cities across the US, tens of thousands of people have swarmed the streets to express their outrage and sorrow. That has descended into nights of unrest, with reports of shootings, looting and vandalism. Since the death of Mr. Floyd, protests have erupted in at least 140 cities across the US.” At least 25 people were killed. Minneapolis alone had over $2 billion in property damages due to vandalism.

What was the extent of the January 6 Capital Riot? Not a single person in the crowd that day was carrying a firearm. In fact, only one person (Ashli Babbitt) was fatally shot as a protester. Property damage was estimated to be $1.5 million. The 2020 riots were much more violent and costly than the Capital riot.

Rivera continued: “Coach Del Rio does have the right to voice his opinion as a citizen of the US and it is his constitutional right to do so. However, words have consequences and his words hurt a lot of people in our community. Our organization will not tolerate any equivalency between those who demanded justice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the actions of those on Jan. 6 who sought to topple our government.”

Second, while claiming Del Rio’s has a First Amendment right to free speech, Rivera and the Commanders organization then shut down his right to have an opinion! Any NFL player can, and has, voiced their opinion on these same events without any repercussions from the NFL. Colin Kaepernick tweeted “When civility leads to death, revolting is the only logical reaction… We have the right to fight back!” Kaepernick endorsed violence as the justifiable means to protesting Floyd’s murder. There was no repercussion from the NFL.

By not punishing Kaepernick, the NFL endorsed his opinion that the 2020 violence was an acceptable means to achieve the end – “demand for justice”. By punishing Del Rio, the NFL defines free speech based on how well one’s opinion aligns with theirs. So, when it does not, you are not free to voice your opinion.

This type of wrong thinking is the Ethical Theory of “Consequentialism,” which states the right thing to do in any situation is whatever will “do the most good” for the most people, even if the act itself is wrong or evil.

But who gets to decide what “does the most good”? Ethical systems based on opinion are dangerous since whoever is in power defines ethics, while objective morality defines right vs. wrong, regardless of opinion.

This week’s verse explains freedom of speech as objectively good but be careful in interpreting someone’s words. With the Bible’s help, our founders created the world’s greatest society, giving us an objective, Constitutional right to free speech. Destroying businesses, peoples’ livelihood, as well as killing over 25 people, is objectively evil. Shutting down Del Rio’s opinion because you don’t agree is objectively wrong.

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance _ Article #509

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