Thursday, November 15, 2007


I posted my view of the recent incident at the world bridge championship in China and the response of the US Bridge Federation. I also sent an e-mail to the Board of the US Bridge Federation and got some excellent responses from one of the members of the board. Sadly, however, I think the USBF made a number of mistakes which clearly blew the incident out of proporation and out of their control.

When I exchanged e-mails, the Board member stayed with the issue of the flagrant violation by the the women but didn't fully celebrate that simple fact they won the tournament. They continue to stand by the position the act was wrong and action should and would be taken against the women and possibly members in any future incident. But they failed to see some over-riding issues.

First, the women did not break any specific rule of the USBF, they just embarrassed the USBF and impuned their reputation at an international tournament, which they noted was in China, who sponsored the event. They also implied this action could result in losses of corporate support. And that's what the real issue was, not the act or the words, but the impact of an act of free speech on their international reputation and corporate sponsorship.

They were driven by fear than by pride. And that's where they went wrong. I wrote that all they had to do was three easy and simple things.

First, take the women aside and privately discuss what had happened. Listen to their side as well as express the USBF's displeasure. Aside from that, since no rule was broken, leave it to history.

Second, publically issue a statement stating the women were expressing their personal opinon(s) and not the opinion of the USBF. The USBF supports its member and the riigh of free speech as an American value. And that's all, a simple neutral diplomatic statement.

Third, consider bringing the issue of incidents like this to the rules committee for discussion and possible change in member agreements about act of a similar nature at future international tournament. Ensure the rule is neutral in the act and content of the act (signs, buttons, etc.) and not engage in partisan politics.

It's clear to me the USBF errored badly in their reaction and made the women representatives of American value of free speech and themselves the curmudgeons against it. And while people can argue the words on the sign, no one could argue anything different should have or would have changed the act itself. Whether you agreed with them or not, they did what every American has the right to do, express their opinion.

I applaud their bravery. And while you can be angry with their act and words, consider one thing. Do you remember John Carlos and Tommie Smith in the 1968 Olympics? If you did, what's the difference? Nothing. Both were personal acts and public expressions of conscience.

Does anyone remember the noise from it or what happened to them? No? Because you only remember the act itself. The simple act of expressing oneself as an American. I doubt the women of the USBF will suffer the same fate at Mr. Carlos and Mr. Smith in their life. But you still have to applaud their courage to stand by their beliefs and values.

And if you disagree, what are you saying about America and American values? It's only your values that matter? Or your America that's important? And if you find yourself in a minority or committing an act others don't like, how will you react to their outrage?

Don't we all stand for freedom of speech?

No comments:

Post a Comment