“No means no” free speech?

Doesn’t Oregon have a free speech policy? We do, assuming Chuck Triplett hasn’t cancelled it yet:

Expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance, not solely for those who present and defend some view but for those who would hear, disagree, and pass judgment on those views. The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, and in any other way despicable, detestable, offensive or “just plain wrong” cannot be grounds for its suppression.

The University supports free speech with vigor, including the right of presenters to offer opinion, the right of the audience to hear what is presented, and the right of protesters to engage with speakers in order to challenge ideas, so long as the protest does not disrupt or stifle the free exchange of ideas.

But apparently that doesn’t apply if you are a Duck football player:

PASADENA, Calif. — Several Oregon players are facing team discipline after celebrating their win in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual by apparently mocking Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and allegations of sexual assault that have followed the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner the past two years.

Video taken from the field as Oregon celebrated its 59-20 win in the College Football Playoff semifinal showed multiple players chanting, “No means no,” to the tune of the “Warchant” used by Florida State fans.

“We are aware of the inappropriate behavior in the postgame,” coach Mark Helfrich said in a statement released by Oregon on Thursday night. “This is not what our program stands for, and the student-athletes will be disciplined internally.”

This summer UO tried to discipline a student for yelling “I hit it first” out a dorm room window. (Yeah, I had to google that too.) The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent UO a stern warning letter about the first amendment, and UO Director of Student Conduct Sandy Weintraub quickly backed down. Post with links to RG stories here.

But this is the NCAA. The coaches *own* those players.

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17 Responses to “No means no” free speech?

  1. Uhhh... says:

    So, the program doesn’t stand for “No means no”? Or is it that the warchant is inappropriate? What exactly are they being disciplined for?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Whatever you think of the free-speech rights angle, let’s not hold these guys up on some moral stage. They weren’t affirming the importance of consent, they were taunting an opposing player. Let’s see them chant “No means no” at a Take Back the Night rally. Or in front of Matt Court.

    • Anonymous says:

      They were taunting, yes, which gave me pause too. But then I asked myself: “why SHOULDN’T they taunt him for disrespecting women?” What better tonic for arrogant young athletes than to know they’ll be scorned and ridiculed for abusive behavior? Isn’t that preferable to giving the Heisman to creeps? It’s not like they were taunting him for his poor play.

  3. anonec says:

    Helfrich’s statement is embarrassing, and the players’ chant is genuine and more powerful than those PR videos they made in the fall –
    you disrespect social norms and human decency without consequences, you get mocked and embarrassed.

  4. anon says:

    Free speech is one thing, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for poor sportsmanship and violations of behavior codes. They aren’t being prosecuted, but they are being held accountable for their actions that violated the behavior code. I somehow doubt you’d support their free speech to make vulgar comments about the FSU cheerleaders’ anatomy, now would you?

    • Uhhh... says:

      Sure, but “no means no” isn’t really vulgar or controversial, now is it? It’s not like any normal person would take offense to it, same as “don’t drink and drive”, or “stay in school”. I imagine some people got scared to see players making a statement about athletic culture on national tv, but what is the real issue here? Obviously the message was directed at the alleged actions of a particular player, but shouldn’t they try to be first in line to join the chant?

    • anonec says:

      “consequences for poor sportsmanship and violations of behavior codes” – wasn’t the chant a consequence for violating consent?

      Btw, the chant didn’t use any names or was vulgar but addressed poor behaior – so your example is a poor choice.

  5. Consequences says:

    Regardless of the Oregon players’ motives, they should be (1) disciplined by the coach for bad sportsmanship toward a team they just beat, (2) willing to take that discipline just as Martin Luther King accepted the price of civil disobedience, and (3) lauded for taking a stand regarding Jameis Winston’s behavior with a young woman.

    Football powerhouse Florida State itself was unwilling to impose any consequences on Winston. Should it have?

    The hearing examiner (administrative judge) wrote in his letter to Winston, “I do not find the credibility of one story substantially stronger than that of the other.”

    The young woman or her attorney were unable to challenge the credibility of Winston’s story because he refused to take the witness stand, whereas she did so.

    The decision did not say that the accusation was false — only that it had not been adequately proved. But even that was a problem because the hearings officer — a lawyer and former judge — used the wrong standard for decision making.

    The student conduct code only requires the decision maker to believe the accusation is more likely than not – a mere preponderance of the evidence (a tiny dust speck more than 50-50). http://srr.fsu.edu/Student-Conduct-Code/Student-Conduct-Code-PDF

    Instead of abiding by the code, the hearings officer used a different standard that he made up. He wrote that he required the accuser’s testimony to be “substantially” stronger than the version presented by Winston’s lawyers. The young woman labored under a heavy burden invented by the hearings officer, contrary to the proper one in FSU’s code.

    The Oregon players certainly didn’t know these details. But they had a moral right to express their opinion about Winston — and an obligation to endure the consequences for unsportsmanship conduct in doing so.

    • uomatters says:

      Thanks for your excellent and thoughtful comment. Free speech often does and should have consequences.

      But the First Amendment protects people from legal consequences, and I’d argue that UO’s Free Speech Policy protects people from administrative ones. UO cannot discipline these “student-athletes” for this chant, anymore than UO can discipline Marcus Mariota for the on-the-field prayer circles he leads after the games, or me for writing this blog. Satire, public ridicule, and mockery on matters of public importance are just the sorts of free speech that need the most protection.

      And what better place to celebrate freedom than at a football game, just after a protective flyover from the US Air Force’s stealth B-2 bomber, or at a basketball game, during the national anthem?

      Regarding the “unsportsmanlike conduct” issue, I think the greatest moments in sportsmanship have been things like Muhammed Ali’s explanation of why he wouldn’t register with the draft board (No Vietnamese ever called me N…) and the raised fists at the 1968 olympics, and the “don’t shoot” demonstration that Dana Altmann objected to. This latest might not have been quite as dignified, but it gets points for funny.

    • anonec says:

      I agree with most of your comments but “sportsmanship” is very often just a simple excuse to not disturb “the party”. The players had for a moment the big stage and made a statement.

      The first amendment – and the issue of sexualt assault – should trump any perceived customs of sportsmanship. But sure, if you believe in your cause you bear the consequences – 15 push-ups but a big message.

      Helfrich could have said “We will talk about it.” and drop the “inappropriate behavior” and “what our pogram stands for” as both are ambiguous – taunting the opponent or using a public stage for a statement.

      Btw, nobody talks about the many more FSU players who left the field without giving handshakes…

      • Consequences says:

        Should the FSU players have been disciplined for failing to give handshakes? I think so. Should NFL players be disciplined? Nah, who cares? It’s just about money.

        For college players, however, “sportsmanship” should still something inculcated in young men and women.

        That said, however, it is surely true that here Helfrich seems like he is primarily retaliating against speech — for disturbing the party.

        And UOM is correct that the some of the greatest moments in sports have included protest actions by athletes. And a university should cherish and honor those students who are willing to stand up and speak up.

        Would this formula work? Helfrich announces that if the players had simply been rude toward their opponents, he would have disciplined them, but because they appear to have been standing up for victims of assault and making a statement of advocacy, he decides that punishment would be inappropriate. He then invites (but does not order) all his players to volunteer time to educating peers about sexual assault and inappropriate behavior — and stands first in line to do some of that volunteering himself.

        • Consequences says:

          There’s more:

          “Florida State Players Slammed Over ‘Disappointing’ Lack Of Sportsmanship After Rose Bowl”

          The indignities didn’t stop for Florida State after the clock struck zero at the Rose Bowl. After being demolished by Oregon in a College Football Playoff semifinal, the defending national champion Seminoles drew criticism from ESPN commentator Kirk Herbstreit for an apparent lack of sportsmanship.

          As noted by Herbstreit and his broadcast partner Chris Fowler, many Florida State players went directly to their locker room after the final whistle without shaking hands with Oregon players.

          “That’s disappointing that 70 percent of the Florida State team is in the locker room,” Herbstreit said after Oregon’s 59-20 win on Thursday. “It’s easy to go across when you win a game to shake hands. You lose a game after 29 games and you can’t come over and shake a hand of an Oregon player and tell him, ‘Congratulations?'”

          Prominent among those Florida State players who crossed the field to greet Oregon were quarterback Jameis Winston and wide receiver Rashad Greene. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher also greeted his Oregon counterparts after the defeat.

          A day later, Herbstreit stood by his criticism of those FSU players who went straight to the locker room after the game.”

          • Consequences says:

            And please read this carefully: http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/taunting-football-player-means-terrible-idea/story?id=27967477

            “In many settings, watching three Oregon players chant “No means no!” would be encouraging, a much-needed show of support for rape victims from a few high-profile athletes. But in a different setting, watching Oregon players yell the exact same phrase morphs into something else entirely. The moment begins to look opportunistic, unsettling.

            A few places where the chant might feel genuine: the steps of a courthouse, during an on-campus protest, basically any space where the motivation is to create education and awareness.”

            and this:

            ” the Oregon players seem to be using rape, and consent, as the fuel for some trash talking against a beaten opponent. In that context, the moment no longer seems like a strong stand by a few socially conscious athletes. In that context, the chant seems tasteless, further trivializing sexual assault, which is actually a very serious problem on college campuses, including at Oregon. In that context, “No means no” is being wielded as a joke, a way to gloat.”

            • uomatters says:

              Tasteless. But of course “de gustibus non est disputandam”. So speech that some people condemn and oppose as tasteless needs particularly strong free speech protection.

          • anonec says:

            We do not know the exact motives of the three UO players. I give them the benefit of the doubt that they thought what most people think when they look at Whinston and his alleged behavior.

            You can protest in front of courthouses but let’s be honest. If you want to get attention and a wide discussion started, you need the big stage nowadays. Here is an interesting alternative take:
            “As schools across the country are exposed for sexual assault scandals on campus, athletic events are increasingly being transformed into protest sites.”

            Either way, the three players started a wide discussion and it’s finally coming from males part of “a macho culture”.

  6. Andy Stahl says:

    What a quaint notion that the Athletic Department is a part of the University of Oregon community or subject to its free speech policy.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’m pretty sure had the coach let the incident slide there would have been an article here with the headline in the manner of “Football players taunt opponents in win, coach refuses to discipline”. Can’t win them all.

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