Keidel: David Tyree Learns The Cost Of Free Speech

By Jason Keidel
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Athletes often lament that we in the media focus on the negative, on the bad boy ballers, ignoring the myriad times they put their popular names to good use, raising countless millions for good causes. There is truth to that, but it would be easier to resist the leap to Page Six if their colleagues didn’t oblige so often. Enter David Tyree, who has the city in a tizzy after his assertions about gay marriage.

Unlike most people, I’ve met David Tyree. I interviewed him at Macy’s in Manhattan for a piece I wrote for this Web site in December, during a fundraiser for Wounded Warrior Project. He spoke for a moment to start the event and then signed autographs and other memorabilia for our injured heroes who return hopeless, limbless, and lifeless after fighting for his right to play football, my right to write about it, and your right to watch it.

That doesn’t make me an expert on Tyree, nor does it condone or condemn his controversial comments, but it takes about 60 seconds to conclude that he’s a bright and thoughtful man, not one given to frequent spurts of bigotry.

I have an opinion on Tyree’s remarks, and on gay marriage. But I won’t share it because my opinion is no more valid than his, or yours.

And that’s the point of this piece: that such are the semantic hazards of life under the wide lens of public life and the wider tent of First Amendment freedom.

Gay marriage, as we know, is a toxic topic at the moment, the debate du jour. Any view, reasoned or not, is assured a volcanic retort. Kobe Bryant led a conga line of renowned athletes (including Roger McDowell and Joakim Noah) who made gay slurs that were caught on camera. After being fined, scolded, but not suspended, Bryant issued a mea culpa and the world still twirled.

Too often a star morphs into rambling crusader, assuming that they’re instantly imbued with physical, philosophical and diplomatic powers that lay dormant until they became important. No matter your political leanings, we’ve all been sickened by some gaseous monologue from an actor or athlete who assumes we want to hear his/her thoughts on Darfur, immigration, or Medicare. It’s not enough that they are lucky enough to inhale millions just because they’re pretty or pretty good onstage. We must also kneel at their sudden sense of enlightenment.

And for far too long we’ve imbued those celebrities with cosmic powers, from Jane Fonda to John Rocker, making the myopic assumption that because they are gifted on a stage that they must be equally gifted on the street.

Rocker, who is clearly off his rocker, made some dubious declarations to Sports Illustrated a decade ago, a troubling rant about the 7 Train and its passengers, who, because of their ethnic diversity, made him uncomfortable. For this, Rocker was vilified, fined, suspended, and basically blackballed from baseball.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. delivered a monologue as racist as anything you’d see at a Klan rally, calling Manny Pacquiao every Asian slur in the catalogue (all of it recorded and available on YouTube), yet nothing happened. Bernard Hopkins continued his bigoted assault on Donovan McNabb, yet nothing happened. Charles Barkley once said he hates white people, yet nothing happened.

Mind you, I watch every boxing match involving Mayweather and Hopkins because they are brilliant boxers. (I’ve interviewed Hopkins, too, and when he’s not belching misguided anthropological lectures, he’s a blast to be around.) And I find Barkley an affable, sometimes laughable, but always entertaining NBA analyst. If we limited our entertainment dollar to people we liked personally, we’d never watch a movie, buy a record, or attend a ballgame. We just wish the participants, the entertainers, would entertain us in the manner that made them famous.

I will say that it’s sad that as children we’re emblazoned with homilies about sticks and stones, yet as adults everything offends us. There’s no law against idiotic remarks, just as there’s no law against idiots. No doubt we all have a semantic mulligan (or two) on our scorecard. What we don’t have are millions of people who witnessed our gaffes, recorded them, and ran them on eternal loop for the populous to parse.

Perhaps the solution is to ignore the sermons, no matter the source or source matter. The more offended we become, the more power we bestow upon the offender.

Sorry if this missive morphed into a civics class. I’m just a dumb sportswriter with the mind of a jock but none of his talent. All I have is an opinion and perhaps some talent for expressing it, but I’m no more important than you are. And David Tyree is no more important than we are.

Feel free to email me:

What are your thoughts on Tyree? Let Keidel know in the comments below…

  • Bob Fowler

    Censorship is alive and well on this site. Someone didn’t agree with my last attempted post, so it never gets shown. Nothing racist, rude or in violation of any policy short of having an opinion different than Big Brother’s. “But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

  • Trelan

    How can you welcome comments when my comments never gets posted?

    In regards to Mr Tyree’s comments; David Tyree is an American citizen and as such has a right to let his stance made known on something as impact-full to society as marriage. Like it or not, such unions and sexuality impact families, because they either produce children or diseases.

    David Tyree is a member of society and is raising children in society. Often people cower in silence because the media often vilify people who goes against a popular political stance. Take note of CNN’s antagonistic “interview” today(June 17). It is refreshing to see a man standing up for his beliefs fearlessly. I applaud you David Tyree!

    • Baylor

      I couln’t agree with you more. Very well said.

  • Paul D

    I can agree on ideology regardless of the source. Tyree said what he said and was judged accordingly. The people have spoken. That’s all I wanted to say.

    • JK

      Agreed. All I wanted to say is that our star-struck society imbues celebrities with philosophical powers that are entirely unwarranted. Of course Tyree is entitled to his opinion. My point was (and is) that he’s merely Joe Q. Public, just like the rest of us. His ability to catch a football does nothing to burnish his burnish his view on societal issues.

  • Paul D

    Jason, when one first picks up the pen, he finds himself almost overwhelmed by the at once empowered and humiliating nature of the animal. One can find true freedom or be condemned for his words. But the field is always level. I agree with you in that respect. Athletes, public figures, actors, those in the limelight, one would tend to think, would be, shoul be acutely aware of their platform, the uniqueness of their position. But I think that it is just a matter time management. It is ultimately easier to sit down and ponder the issues, descramble your thoughts so that you can find that freedom before setting ink to paper. Someone thrusts a microphone in you face and all that goes out the window. But still, that is no excuse to ignore what you are and where you are.

    • JK

      We seem to be discussing different things, Pablo. Todd is lost, so we can expect nothing from him. You, on the other hand, agreed with him, which should be impossible considering the chasmal gap in intellect (yours being infinitely greater, of course).

      Also, you said I “missed the point” when it was my point to make. You may disagree with what I say, and I welcome healthy, intelligent, and rigorous debate. But it’s silly to assert that I miss my own point.

      My point was (and is) that my view on gay marriage is meaningless since I’m a sportswriter and folks visit this site and read my columns to be entertained vis-a-vis sports. And thus Tyree, as a football player, is no more qualified to talk gay rights than you are, than I am, than anyone (except Todd, who isn’t qualified for anything). Capiche?

  • Paul D

    Rich, Carton is just another in a long line of Howard wannabe’s. The funny part is that he’s trying to do his early Nineties act. Stern is light years ahead of anyone who’e ever deigned to pick up a microphone. It’s a sad display for anyone who’s ever fallen down and held their stomach out of sheer fear that their insides would burst after listening to a session with “Big Black,” “The Kings af all Blacks,” and commentery from the funniest mother this side of Richard Pryor- Artie Lang.

  • daniel

    i’m sorry, with all due respect to Mr .Tyree and Jason Kiedell’s defense of his right to free speech, which he has, at the end of the day what Mr. Tyree is espousing is bigotry, simplly. He does seem eloquent in his conversation, but to imply that Gay marriage would begin to turn the country into anarchy is exactly the same nonsense yelled out by people during the ciivil rights era condemning racially mixed marriages and integration in general….Mr. Tyree has the right to say what he wants, but his points about a child absolutely needing a mother and a father, well that may be ideal, but what about children who come from a broken home, or god forbid, on of their parents have died…anyway all hail free speech, which also gives us a right to to call Tyree a bigot…..(anyway his catch against the Pats is one of my all time favorite sports moments, beside s the point)

  • Rich Corvi

    The way Boomer and Carton dismiss and ridicule an opinion that is different then theirs only reinforces what I already thought about the combined IQ.

    Carton should research easier topics like the population of the USA, an area that has challenged him in the past.

  • Greg

    If someone wants to spread their ignorance then they should pay the price for it. Also this is about people who believe their religion should be law and that people that are different than them shouldn’t have the same rights as them, hardly a difference of opinion on economic or foreign policy.

    • JK

      I think we’re seeing that from both sides of the aisle, Greg. Most people seem unequipped to handle robust debate, as it almost always morphs into a peeing contest lathered with insults. It’s a shame that so many feel the need to personally bash all those with whom they disagree rather than learn from each other with reasoned dialogue.

  • Richard White

    JK: Thanks for a balanced essay. Those who disagree with Tyree can endeavor to refute his position using reasoned argument. At the end of the day we likely will have some, perhaps many, with a good faith difference of opinion. But that good faith difference will stand in stark contrast to the infantile Boomer and Carton dialong this morning alternating between ad hominem attacks on Tyree and vague emotiive blather.

  • Paul D

    Todd, I’m sorry man. My bad. I completely misread your comment. I agree. Keidel is the one who misses the point. Opinions have to be aired and shared. Let the world decide if they’re valid or not. We either will lampoon them or celebrate them.

    • JK

      Wait a second. I withheld my opinion to make a point, not out of fear of reprisal. You disappoint me, Paul, and you’re far too bright not to know what I was doing. Todd is a classic hater. And if he doesn’t like my style he’s welcome to turn the page. As always, leading with insults (numbskull) says far more about the man saying it than his target.

      • JK

        And you’ve read enough of my columns, Paul, to know that I’m never afraid to give my opinion. That’s what I do for a living.

  • Paul D

    Hey Todd, how often had you been told that you miss the point? Come on, you can say it. It’s okay. You were born without a funny bone. There’s no shame in that. It just means that the jokes have to be explained to you slowly. At some point you’ll get it. I have faith in you.

  • Todd

    “I have an opinion on Tyree’s remarks, and on gay marriage. But I won’t share it because my opinion is no more valid than his, or yours”

    Lame. Give me a break. You have no Valid opinion to share because you’re as lame as Tyree. Numbskull for sure.

    • JK

      Yeah, I’m lame, Todd. I’m one of those “numbskulls” who argues with intelligence and logic rather than leading with insults. No doubt you get great pleasure sniping from the comfort of your cubicle. Perhaps you’d like to email me privately for a more robust dialogue. You won’t, of course, because you feel so cool now hiding behind a pseudonym. I look forward to reading your take on this (and other matters) on another nationally read Web site.

  • Paul D

    Huh, let’s see here, I gots my ball, and um… I got’s my ball now. I needs my helmet. That’s what I needs. I just needs to put on my uniform. Now… oh, yeah, I hate them gays. That’s right. I hate them gays…. Anybody seen my teef guard?

  • Paul D

    “Poop shoot” That’s some funny s@#%t, Kurt. Hey, maybe they could “gag” on their big words. How abou just letting it “blow” by you.

  • Kurt Spitzner

    If they want to be heard they should run for office or talk to their local politicians just like everyone else,but if they decide to open up and put their leg in their mouth then they need be prepared to have it rammed up their poop shoot in the immortal words of Frank Zappa after they do.

  • JK

    lydia, please stop quoting my comments and incorporating them into some pornographic outlet.

    • MikeTorrez

      I like where Lydia is going with this.

  • MIKE

    F U JASON !!!!!11

    • JK

      Well, that’s a brilliant analysis, Mike. Did you scribble that yourself or do you have a ghostwriter?

  • JK

    Thank you, LaVeda. Wasn’t’ sure what your take would be on this.

  • LaVeda H. Mason

    Excellent, and so true! +1

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