Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rah, Rah, Sis, Boom, Distort

(Sorry, getting on the soapbox today.)

I have long believed that the internet is the greatest form of free speech and a good reason why maybe free speech should be restricted. Years ago, before there were very many websites, bulletin boards were the most popular venues for wasting time. You might sign up for a bulletin board about your favorite tv show and chat with like minded people. Way back when, just for entertainment, my friends and I would make up ridiculous posts. For example, on a golf bulletin board we would invent Ben Hogan stories (kind of like Chuck Norris myths) until finally someone would recognize us for the idiots we were and remove our posts.

Yes, that’s how boring the internet was back then, but it’s still a great place to ignore facts. I was recently made aware of a petition going around to chastise a Texas high school principal who kicked a cheerleader off the squad because she refused to cheer for the man that allegedly raped her.

The public’s initial response:
A) Egads! That’s awful! How could a man be so unfeeling about something as awful as rape? and
B) What a great illustration of how blind love is when it comes to Texans and their football!

The only problem is that the petitioner chronicles the story like it all happened in a very short time span, as if it were a one hour episode of “Law and Order,” when in reality the events transpired over a two year period and were only fully resolved this month. But to fully appreciate the situation, you must flashback to February, 2009 and take into account only the facts known during that time.

In October, 2008, the cheerleader alleged that she was raped by the football player at a party.

In January, 2009, a grand jury declined to indict the football player. (An old saying goes, “A good prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.”)

With no indictment, the player was allowed to continue with competitive sports, this time, the basketball team.

In February, 2009, the cheerleader refused to cheer the player’s name when he attempted free throws (a good idea unless you want him to miss).

Around this time, the cheerleader was dismissed from the cheerleading squad and sued, alleging that her free speech rights were violated. (The courts ruled in favor of the school and an appeals court affirmed the decision just this month, which put the story back in the news.)

We never learn who complained about her lack of cheering. It might have been something easy to ignore. But once you allow a cheerleader to be selective about who she will or won’t cheer for, you’ve set a precedent, and other cheerleaders will follow suit: “I’ll only cheer for my boyfriend” or “I won’t cheer for him because he cheated on me over the weekend” or “I won’t cheer for him because he won’t return my texts.”

So what should the high school principal have done? And how do you legally justify it?

If you want to petition someone, petition the DA who couldn’t get an indictment the first time around.

(Note: A second grand jury indicted the football player in November, 2009. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in October, 2010.)

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