How do people who say, sing or imply something you don’t like typically reply if you were to call them up on it? They usually throw the First Amendment in your face.

“Hey, man, this is America. Freedom of speech and all that.”

Well, that’s true, but only to a point. These days speech is only “free” if it’s not “controversial.”

Nearly 230 years ago, our Founding Fathers were uttering some of the most controversial, radical and dangerous speech of all when they were advocating rebellion against Great Britain. In the end, when America finally won its independence, some of those men wanted to ensure future generations the very same right to speak, write and communicate equally “controversial” and radical ideas.

Hence, recognizing a person’s right to freedom of speech became part of the very first constitutional amendment adopted by our founders. Ideas, concepts and statements, no matter how controversial or angering they may be – even to the majority – are still protected under our system of government.

Of course, that depends who is doing the talking.

If you’re white, forget saying anything factually critical about a minority. If you do, you’re a racist, not a truth-teller. And if, by chance, you’re white and happen to utter a racial epithet in anger during an argument with a minority, you could be charged with a “hate crime” (much less so if the situation were reversed).

It’s getting so absurd that even minorities can’t speak truthfully about members of their own race. Dusty Baker, manager of the Chicago Cubs and National League All-Star team, is a case in point.

Last week he was giving a “relaxed” interview to reporters when he dared to make some observations about blacks (Dusty also is black) when answering a question about playing in the oppressive July heat.

“[The heat] is a factor in Atlanta, it’s a factor in Cincinnati, it’s a factor in Philadelphia,” Baker said. “We have to mix and match and try to keep guys fresh and try to have different lineups. … I’ve got a pretty good idea [how it’s done]. My teams usually play better in the second half than they do in the first half. I think that’s because the way we spot guys and use everybody. Personally, I like to play in the heat. It’s easier for me. It’s easier for most Latin guys and easier for most minority people. You don’t find too many brothers in New Hampshire and Maine and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, right? We were brought over here for the heat, right? Isn’t that history? Weren’t we brought over because we could take the heat?” he said with a smile.

Within minutes, the sports media was all over those comments. Thankfully, Dusty Baker – unwittingly or not – remembered what our Founding Fathers thought about free speech.

Undaunted by the criticism, he said, “It doesn’t really matter to me because that’s what I said. I’m not going to take it back. What I said to you guys is what I said to my team. I told my other teammates this a long time ago, too. When we talk about how hot it is, I told them that’s why my ancestors were brought over here, for that reason, and that’s history.”

But he also indicated the sad state of so-called “freedom of speech” in 2003 America.

“I stand by what I said. I wasn’t talking about white people. I was talking about black people,” Baker said. “And if I want to talk about African-American and black people, that’s my prerogative. I can say stuff and call somebody of my color stuff that [white people] can’t. And then you guys can call people, whether they’re Jewish or Polish, or I’ve heard Italian people call Italian people stuff that I can’t say. And that’s how it goes.”

Major League Baseball officials say they won’t sanction Baker. That’s fine. But MLB did sanction white Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker, after making snide (but truthful) remarks about certain people found in New York City.

Dusty Baker is right. Sadly, these days, that’s “how it goes.”

I have a feeling I know what our founders would say about all of this.

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