These bridge-playing champions on my left are about to be stripped like Chuck Conners in Branded because they played the unthinkable trick:
They held up a handmade sign at an award dinner, that said, "We did not vote for Bush."
And then laughed about it. —The fiends!
Today's Times reports, in Anti-Bush Sign Has Bridge World in an Uproar , that some powerful, enraged, and unbelievably stuffy bridge players have accused the women players of “treason” and “sedition.” Not to mention being uppity bitches.
“This isn’t a free-speech issue,” said Jan Martel, president of the United States Bridge Federation. “There isn’t any question that private organizations can control the speech of people who represent them.”
Remind me not to invite Jan to any close Constitutional readings.
Ms. Martel said the action by the team, which had won the Venice Cup, the women’s title, at the Shanghai event, could cost the federation corporate sponsors.
The players have been stunned by the reaction to what they saw as a spontaneous gesture, “a moment of levity,” said Gail Greenberg, the team’s non-playing captain and winner of 11 world championships.
In other words, everyone had a cocktail or two at this event.
The controversy has gone global, with the French team offering support for its American counterparts.
“By trying to address these issues in a nonviolent, nonthreatening and lighthearted manner,” the French team wrote in by e-mail to the federation’s board and others, “you were doing only what women of the world have always tried to do when opposing the folly of men who have lost their perspective of reality.”
French allies, eh? These people are a hair away from Gitmo.
The proposed sanctions would hurt the team’s playing members financially. “I earn my living from bridge, and a substantial part of that from being hired to compete in high-level competitions,” Debbie Rosenberg, a team member, said. “So being barred would directly affect much of my ability to earn a living.”
A hearing is scheduled this month in San Francisco, where thousands of players will be gathered for the Fall North American Bridge Championships. It will determine whether displaying the sign constitutes conduct unbecoming a federation member.
I hope there is a whole-scale riot.
The sanction calls for a one-year suspension from federation events, including the World Bridge Olympiad next year in Beijing; a one-year probation after that suspension; 200 hours of community service “that furthers the interests of organized bridge”; and an apology drafted by the federation’s lawyer.
It would also require them to write a statement telling “who broached the idea of displaying the sign, when the idea was adopted, etc.”
Alan Falk, a lawyer for the federation, wrote the four team members on Nov. 6, “I am instructed to press for greater sanction against anyone who rejects this compromise offer.”
Sacre bleu! Has there EVER been a punishment on this scale in the women's bridge federation? What are they going to do when someone gets caught shoplifting, or shooting someone?
Many of those offended by the sign do not consider the expressions of regret sufficient. “I think an apology is kind of specious,” said Jim Kirkham, who has played in several bridge championships. “It’s not that I don’t forgive them, but I still think they should be punished.”
Would he personally like to administer the "punishment?" What a sanctimonious prig! No wonder bridge is going the way of the dodo bird.
Robert S. Wolff, one of the country’s pre-eminent bridge players, opined....
“While I believe in the right to free speech, to me that doesn’t give anyone the right to criticize one’s leader at a foreign venue in a totally nonpolitical event,” he wrote by e-mail.
Oh, Robert "believes" in free speech, does he? Is that like believing in the tooth fairy? It's not a church, you idiot, it's the law. Whatever he "believes," he is entitled to express it, just like the Bridgie Chicks are entitled to say what they like, especially over victory drinks and dinner!
As blogger Hot Air wrote this morning, "I’ve got a better idea: How about a simple press release noting that anyone who can’t get through a card game without declaring his or her opposition to the Bushitler is an abject moron?"
Jon Swift's must-read satire:
The First Amendment does not give people the right to yell anti-Bush slogans in a crowded theater, or even to talk during the movie at all. If we let a few lady Bridge players criticize the President, it could spread. The next thing you know Democrats in Congress will start opposing the President's appointments, passing laws against torture or defying him on funding for the Iraq War.
From behind the scenes in competitive bridge:
Another part of the reason I became disillusioned with bridge was the cheating. Bridge has a long history of cheating -- even at the international level...So when I read about the yahoo who held up a sign reading "We didn't vote for Bush" at an international bridge tournament, I can't say it surprised me. She was probably signaling the number of spades she was holding.
Seventh Sense examines the rules carefully:
Does any reasonable person believe the four women were speaking for the United States Bridge Federation when they said "We did not vote for Bush"?
The clear answer is "no". They were speaking for themselves.
It also seems clear to me that the four women did not violate any rules of the USBF. You know how you can tell? Because as a result of this incident, the USBF Board is considering changes to its disciplinary rules to "make certain that an incident like this does not happen again". Tell tale sign -- if you make the rule after the fact, then it clearly wasn't there before the fact.
John Aravosis points out that the USBF is defending their hardline by saying that the women were wrong to insult China's no-free-speech policies:
The USBF printed a statement on its Web site that says the reason the outburst from the US team was bad is because China is a dictatorship, and dictators don't like free speech.
Here's a snippet from the USBF's statement about the incident:
[These players' actions] reflect a complete disregard for the fact that the Chinese government, which does not exactly have a history of sympathetic views toward political dissent, provided the bulk of financial support for both the 2007 World Championship and the 2008 World Bridge Olympiad.
Even very conservative pundits are disgusted:
...The bridge organization seems to have also overreacted. Rather than scold the players and let them absorb their due obloquy, they have decided to sanction them for their political speech. The sign did not explicitly violate any rule, apparently, but the club will suspend them for conduct unbecoming a member. In doing so, they have transformed these women from immature, sniveling examples of BDS sufferers into First Amendment martyrs.