HOW FOUR FOOTBALL PLAYERS BEAT THE RAP AND CHANGED FREE SPEECH IN OREGON
by Susan Elizabeth Shepard, in SBNation: http://www.sbnation.com/2015/10/28/9620514/the-state-v-robertson
Amazing reporting and legal commentary. Read it all, this is just a snippet:
That Oregon has a lot of strip clubs is well known to any resident. Why here? Locals understand it’s partly because Oregon loves free speech. It’s the only state to have no crime of obscenity, which remains a federal offense. Oregon’s free speech protections are far more expansive than those of the federal government. The all-nude, liquor-serving strip clubs are just the most visible manifestation of a legal framework that protects everything from naked bike rides to verbal harassment to unlimited campaign spending.
In this state’s truly weird fashion, University of Oregon football deserves credit. In 1980, during a historically awful scandal-ridden era of the program, four Ducks players were charged under a coercion statute that made it a crime to use a threat to publicly expose “a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject some person to hatred, contempt or ridicule.” The subsequent case, State v. Robertson, resulted in a unanimous Oregon Supreme Court decision that has been the single most important free speech decision in the state’s history.
The original charges in Robertson have largely been forgotten, but they are stunning. Few people in Oregon or anywhere else know of the case, much less that it emerged from the worst time in Ducks football history from an incident that is a case study in the sordid intersection of collegiate athletics, entitlement and the legal system. It is also so similar to current events that it appear to be just another instance of a story that repeats over and over again; the only things that ever seem to change are the details.