John Rocker

’s Suspension Essay, Research Paper

Philosophy Ethical Theories

Topic 1

An argument can be made that Major League Baseball s decision to suspend John Rocker from baseball due to his expressing bigoted views in a magazine interview is not right. This argument states that free speech is an important moral value, and since John Rocker has the right to free speech, suspending him for expressing his bigoted views violates the spirit of free speech. Therefore, his suspension was uncalled for because all he was doing was expressing one of his moral values; free speech.

This argument is obviously valid. The conclusion logically follows both premises. Since free speech is an important moral value (Premise 1), and suspending John Rocker from baseball for his bigoted views would be a violation of free speech (Premise 2), then the conclusion can logically be inferred; that suspending Rocker for expressing bigoted views is a violation of free speech, which is a moral value, and taking away one s moral values is not right.

Although this argument is valid, it is not very sound. In order for the argument to be sound, both premises have to be true. To examine the truthfulness of both premises, one must start by first defining the term free speech and understanding it s implications. Free speech is one of our inalienable rights as human beings. It is a civil liberty. Legally, it was one of the rights a state must give its citizens in order to guarantee freedom, justice, and equality. More importantly though, free speech is not only a legal term, it also a term which describes one of our civil rights as people. It is an important moral value because it guarantees people the right to express their views without interference from another source. Humans are created with the ability of expression, and with that expression come different ideas and opinions. To hinder a person s right to express those opinions and ideas would be immoral. (Socrates chose to die than to live without the right of expressing his own ideas.) But there is a fine line between expression that is allowed under free speech, and expression that is prohibited. If a person expresses his opinions, and those opinions are only harmful and cannot do any good to anyone, then it is not immoral to restrict that person from expressing those types of opinions. Free speech defends our right to express only the ideas which are not harmful and degrading to other people.

The first premise, which is that free speech is an important moral value, is a truthful statement. Every human being should be allowed to voice his or her opinion and thoughts. If free speech is restricted for some people (i.e. the common citizens of a country) and not restricted for other people (i.e. the government or social leaders of a country), then a social difference is made between the two groups of people. It would seem as if the group that is restricted from free speech is not as good as the group which is allowed free speech. But to call one class of people any better than another class of people on the basis of their restrictions is nonsense. No person who is a moral agent would even consider the idea that in a large section of people, only one group can be given the right of free speech. To do this would be immoral. Thus we can conclude that the right of free speech can be a dividing line between classes of people. If one group has the right to voice their thoughts whenever they choose, and another group doesn t have that right, then it is a cause for one group to feel that they are superior. This superiority is a false notion though, because it is based on no logical reason. Every person was born with a mouth and a mind. The right to express views and thoughts holds true for everybody, just like the right to breath holds true for everybody. If someone restricts someone from the right to breath (without consent of course), surely that is an immoral act. The same goes for free speech. If someone restrains someone from their right to free speech, that is also an immoral act.

The second premise of the argument is not true, thus causing the argument to not be sound. The second premise states that suspending John Rocker from baseball for his bigoted views would be a violation of his right to free speech. As was stated before, the right to free speech does not apply when the speech that is being made is harmful to another person or people s interests. The reason restricting free speech would be immoral is because of the rational that no one person is any better than the next. But when Rocker made his statement, he was implying that he was better than the people he ridiculed. To say that he has the right to say such a thing because of free speech would be contradictory. How could one use free speech to degrade others, and by that imply that he is superior, when the whole reason behind free speech is to promote equality for everyone? Free speech is a right, but part of it is also a moral obligation. When practicing the right of free speech, one has to remember that speaking carries along with it a moral obligation of not ridiculing others. When a person decides to disobey that obligation, he or she is giving up their right to free speech.

It could be said that the term free speech should not be defined. Free speech is exactly what it sounds like speech that is free, anytime, anywhere, anyway a person chooses. A person is allowed to express his thoughts and feelings, whatever they may be, just like a person is allowed to breath whenever he chooses to. To put limitations on free speech would be wrong. If a person is born with a mouth and a mind, he should be able to use them as freely as he likes without any restraints. But this argument fails to realize the important difference between breathing and expressing one s views. When a person breaths, there are no consequences to consider because of that breathing. Thus, a person should be allowed to breath whenever and wherever he chooses too. No one can get hurt or offended by his breathing. But when a person expresses his views, those views can arouse huge consequences. People may get offended by his views, as was the case with Rocker. If a certain type of breathing did have serious consequences, then putting limitations on that breathing would not be immoral. (Getting offended because someone has bad breath is not a serious consequence.) On the same token, if a certain type of speech had serious consequences, then putting limitations on that speech (or punishing someone for that speech) would not be immoral. John Rocker s speech definitely had serious consequences, and thus it was not violating his moral values to suspend him.

It is very important for us to realize that suspending John Rocker did not violate free speech in any way. It is extremely dangerous for people to think that they could say whatever they want and get away with it unpunished. Here in the United States it is even more important than the rest of the world because of the tremendous number of opinions that stem from living in a democratic society. Imagine a country where the expression of hatred and derogatory remarks against other people would be tolerated. Civil war would be inevitable because of all the aggression that would arouse. Free speech is obviously a very important moral value, but only when used the right way.


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