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OPINION: Freedom of expression doesn't mean freedom of repercussions

The Henry Hype

I think there’s a lot of confusion around the topic of freedom of expression, and the fact that this right doesn’t protect you from the repercussions your words could cause.

I’ve been seeing a lot of discussions lately about people being held responsible or facing disciplinary actions for their racist, homophobic, or sexist public comments.

Take for example former Edmonton Eskimos wide receiver Christion Jones, who was released by the team for a homophobic tweet he sent out on June 27, which also happened to be the same day as global Pride celebrations.

“Man ain’t suppose to be with a man. A woman is not supposed to be with another woman," he wrote.

He later tweeted that he wouldn’t apologize for his words, and did so moments before the Eskimos announced they were going to release him.

While Jones has the right to his own opinion, the difference is that he felt the need to share it on a very public platform.

Some people say that Jones being released from the team is part of "cancel culture," the term coined for shaming a public figure or company who has done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.

Jones' words were more than offensive, they were damaging. What if a young football fan, who was struggling with their sexuality, saw his tweet? What kind of message does that send to them?

Freedom of expression is considered a fundamental right by the Canadian Charter of Freedom and Rights, but there are restricted categories where it stops being considered freedom of expression. Hate speech, obscenity, and defamation are some of the areas where laws have been made to restrict such language.

We’re allowed to have our opinions and to voice them, but choosing to do so in a public format means you should expect the repercussions that are going to come from it.

Jones knew his opinion was controversial. He also knew his followers were going to see it because it was on Twitter and that he would receive pushback from people. So why do it in the first place?

If your opinion puts someone down simply because they are a certain way, I'd strongly encourage you to reevaluate the way you see things. You’re simply being a bully, and didn’t learn the fundamental rule of ‘if you have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’

I do hope that Jones learns something from this experience of being ‘cancelled’ and tries to educate himself a bit. If not on being an ally of the LGBTQ2+ community, then at least not spreading hate.

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle