Letter to the Editor


Members of the Kent State men’s basketball team and members of the crowd stand for the national anthem before the team’s home opener against Mississippi Valley State University on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. The team invited members of the crowd of a different race on to the floor as a sign of unity.

Bryan Brown

The unity statement made by the Kent State basketball team is an incredibly well-crafted response to a disturbing recent trend. The national anthem is not a concrete block wall that anyone with an opinion should tag as they see fit.

The First Amendment’s commitment to freedom of expression guarantees individuals the right to express their opinions. While it is crystal-clear about content, the First Amendment is mute with respect to medium, method, mode and venue.

This is as it should be. Free speech would not be free speech if a a third party could shackle any aspect of the delivery of an opinion. That said, free speech should be both temperate and well-wrought.

While American democracy does not generally address matters related to how a message is delivered, some venues are more appropriate than others for certain types of messages.

Kent State’s role as a clarion for First Amendment issues is informed by a long and— at times — painful history. The odds are (unfortunately) good that many of the people who witnessed the basketball team’s creative statement of unity on national television are unaware of the university’s role as a watershed catalyst for change during the Vietnam War. The essence of that role can be found in the story behind the iconic Neil Young song “Ohio.”

All of this is to say good for the Kent State basketball team — and good for the millions of us who embrace the message so creatively encompassed in the team’s gesture.