Abuse Of Government Office To Try To Silence Free Speech
Walter Olson blogs at Overlawyered that Maryland Assemblyman Emmett C. Burns wrote a letter asking that the owner of the Baltimore Ravens take steps to silence the free speech of one of his players. Burns is against same-sex marriage and player Brendon Ayanbadejo spoke out in favor of it.
Shocking abuse of office to try to quash somebody's speech.
Disgusting that he did this on his legislative stationery.
Walter links to Eugene Volokh commenting on this:
This seems to be a pretty inappropriate thing for a legislator, speaking in a way that stresses his role as legislator, to say to a private employer. There is no express threat of retaliation here, but such letters to private businesspeople -- who often have to deal with legislature on various regulatory issues -- tend to carry something of an implied threat, especially when they stress the author's legislative position.
Walter points out in a comment on his post:
I would not so quickly conclude that "as a single member of a state legislature, Burns has no power to do anything." It's true that Burns doesn't appear to have introduced much notable legislation, and also true that M&T Stadium isn't in his district. On the other hand, he sits on the Economic Matters Committee and its business regulation subcommittee, in which capacity it would not be surprising if he could do things like put holds on emergency bills. As a member of the majority party he also is in a position to have close logrolling dealings with other members. When a demand letter on legislative stationery like this arrives at a regulated business I think the reaction is often something other than, "What a laugh, there's no way he can lay a glove on us."
Related -- from Deadspin, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe's response to Burns -- "They Won't Magically Turn You Into A Lustful Cockmonster." An excerpt:
1. As I suspect you have not read the Constitution, I would like to remind you that the very first, the VERY FIRST Amendment in this founding document deals with the freedom of speech, particularly the abridgment of said freedom. By using your position as an elected official (when referring to your constituents so as to implicitly threaten the Ravens organization) to state that the Ravens should "inhibit such expressions from your employees," more specifically Brendon Ayanbadejo, not only are you clearly violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain. What on earth would possess you to be so mind-boggingly stupid? It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person's right to speech. To call that hypocritical would be to do a disservice to the word. Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical starts to approach it a little bit.
2. "Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment, and excitement." Holy fucking shitballs. Did you seriously just say that, as someone who's "deeply involved in government task forces on the legacy of slavery in Maryland"? Have you not heard of Kenny Washington? Jackie Robinson? As recently as 1962 the NFL still had segregation, which was only done away with by brave athletes and coaches daring to speak their mind and do the right thing, and you're going to say that political views have "no place in a sport"? I can't even begin to fathom the cognitive dissonance that must be coursing through your rapidly addled mind right now; the mental gymnastics your brain has to tortuously contort itself through to make such a preposterous statement are surely worthy of an Olympic gold medal (the Russian judge gives you a 10 for "beautiful oppressionism").
I love this guy Kluwe!