The president of the American Civil...

NADINE STROSSEN,

December 03, 1992|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

NADINE STROSSEN, the president of the American Civil Liberties Union, down from New York a few weeks ago, came by to chat with editorial writers.

I wish it had been this week. She could have explained to me

how in recent days the ACLU had said, (1) yes, Marge Schott, the owner of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, could be punished because she made disparaging remarks about blacks, but (2) no, Paris, the rap singer could not be punished for his new album that includes a song happily fantasizing about, if not in fact, advocating the assassination of President Bush.

What Ira Glasser, who is executive director of the ACLU, said this week in re Schott was that while employees have a free speech right "to criticize their employers, be free to hold whatever beliefs they want," employers don't have that right and "can be punished for speech that damages the enterprise [she and other employers are engaged in jointly -- in this case baseball]."

Ah, but the rapper's song about assassination of a president of the United States, according to an ACLU statement released as soon as the album went on sale last week, "is the latest in a series of angry, highly political songs by African-American artists who dramatize scenes of racial injustice. As an artist and political radical, Paris has a First Amendment right to express his rage toward the president and even advocate armed revolution."

So as you can see, if you are an employee, you can tell your boss to quit bugging you or you'll shoot him, and he can't fire you. (If you do, and he does, and/or you get arrested, don't call me, call Nadine.)

* * *

I know the perfect way to punish Marge Schott. Really punish her without interfering with her right to free speech. I would exercise what I like to think of as "The Lincoln Option." That's as in Abraham Lincoln. Marge Schott's comments about blacks were highly insulting (if made as charged) (for the record she denies the charges) (they always do). No self-respecting black man should be forced to work for her. But baseball's rules are such that players can be bound, almost enslaved, to a team. True, the black superstars on the Cincinnati Reds are paid a lot of money, but they're still not free.

If I were commissioner, and I found after an investigation that Marge Schott is the virulent racist she's accused of being, I would issue a proclamation stating that as of Jan. 1, 1993 (the 130th anniversary of the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation) all black players on the Reds were free agents, and if they chose to sign with other teams, they could do so without those teams having to pay the Reds compensation.

Marge Schott could continue to say anything she wanted to about blacks. It's a free country.

She could even field an all-white team. (Yeah, right, and how long do you think the fans in Cincinnati would put up with or pay to see that?)

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