Free to think it. Free to say it. Don’t hit send

I am no fan of politics.

At all.

Not a fan of political movies.

But, one, “The American President” has been one of my favorites since it came out almost 20 years ago.

Good writing, fun little story line and a great speech by President Andrew Shepherd toward the end of the movie.

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.'”

Freedom of speech.

We have seen that phrase bantered about lately.

Donald Sterling.

Don Jones.

What exactly is freedom of speech?

We, as Americans, are free to say whatever we want.


We, as Americans, are also free to accept any punishment for what we say.

Case in point, Donald Sterling.

Because of what he said, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers will be forced to sell his team.

That won’t be done tomorrow, but it will be done.

Once the other 29 owners vote 29-0 to kick Sterling out of their club, he really has no recourse, other than try to tie it up in the court system for years.

All for what he said.

Free to say it.

Free to think it.

Free to accept punishment.

Don Jones was suspended by the Miami Dolphins for what he tweeted after Michael Sam was caught on camera by ESPN kissing his boyfriend after the St. Louis Rams drafted him in the seventh round, No. 249 overall.

Jones tweeted “OMG” and “Horrible.”

Free to think it.

Free to say it.

But, why did Jones get in trouble?

Political correctness?

Not being tolerant?

Being honest?

Being a member of the Dolphins?

Jones has every right to say what he wants (and when you tweet something, it came from your head to your fingers).

Was what he said on par with Sterling?

Was it close?

Not a chance.

What Jones said wasn’t even in the same universe as what Sterling spewed – not once, but twice.

But, the Dolphins organization came down hard on him.

Did they use him as a scapegoat, considering what Miami has gone through the past eight-ish months with the bullying scandal?

Was Jones a sacrificial lamb?

Jones later apologized for what he tweeted.

“I want to apologize to Michael Sam for the inappropriate comments that I made last night on social media,” Jones said in a statement. “I take full responsibility for them and I regret that these tweets took away from his draft moment. I remember last year when I was drafted in the seventh round and all of the emotions and happiness I felt when I received the call that gave me an opportunity to play for an NFL team and I wish him all the best in his NFL career.”

One of the differences here is that television cameras were not in Jones’ house the night he was drafted, so he could have kissed whomever he wished and no one would have seen it – or cared, for that matter.

TV cameras were in Sam’s house because he is gay and him being drafted was a watershed moment in sports history.

This is the same Michael Sam who has said on more than one occasion that he wished he were getting questions about being a football player and not a gay football player.

Yet, him being gay was the only reason the TV cameras were in his house and caught the smooch.

In addition, it appears the Sam posse was in discussions with Oprah Winfrey for a documentary about him trying to make it into the NFL – something the Rams or the NFL apparently knew nothing about.

So, how many other documentaries have been done about a seventh round draft choice trying to make it onto the 53-man roster?

Zero, maybe.

So, why was this one in the works (it has since been put on hold)?

Because Sam is gay.

Sam later complained to that he should have been drafted in the first three rounds, not in the seventh.

First, there are a bunch of guys who think they should have been drafted higher (like, most of them) and the guys who weren’t drafted feel they should have been drafted.

Second, Sam should be thankful he was drafted at all because, according to multiple reports, his showing at the Combine in Indianapolis was a notch above pathetic.

Jones apologized to the Dolphins, also: “I sincerely apologize to Mr. Ross (Stephen Ross, owner), my teammates, coaches, staff and fans for these tweets. I am committed to represent the values of the Miami Dolphins organization and appreciate the opportunity I have been given to do so going forward.”

Dennis Hickey, the new Dolphins general manager chimed in that the organization would not tolerate Jones’ actions and head coach Joe Philbin made a statement.

“We were disappointed to read Don’s tweets during the NFL Draft,” Philbin said. “They were inappropriate and unacceptable, and we regret the negative impact these comments had on such an important weekend for the NFL. We met with Don today about respect, discrimination and judgment. These comments are not consistent with the values and standards of our program.”

Free to think it.

Free to say it.

Don’t hit send.

Miami Dolphins Jones an undisclosed amount for the tweet and ordered him to “educational training” to learn sensitivity.

I’m just curious how hard, if at all, the NFL Players Association backed/fought for Jones?

The one common denominator for Sterling and Jones is very simple – it went public.

Free to think it.

Free to say it.

Don’t hit send.

Once thoughts become public, they are no longer private.

And, once that happens, everyone now has a right to speak on what went public.

Including, of course, those who are in the chair higher than yours.

Personally, I think Sterling should have said this, “Thoughts and opinions expressed by Donald Sterling the person do not reflect the thoughts and opinions expressed by Donald Sterling the owner of the Clippers.”

Jones should have argued, “The opinions expressed are mine, solely mine and no one else’s and surely do not reflect the opinions of my multi-million dollar owner, my employers, the Miami Dolphins.”

That disclaimer should have made everything just fine.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at and followed on Twitter at @MathisonMike)