Boston Mayor Bans Sports Sedition: Walsh Prohibits Any Negative Talk About the Olympics By City Employees

Marty_Walsh220px-US_Navy_031029-N-6236G-001_A_painting_of_President_John_Adams_(1735-1826),_2nd_president_of_the_United_States,_by_Asher_B._Durand_(1767-1845)-cropThis month I wrote a column for the Washington Post on the crackdown of free speech in France and we have previously discussed the decline of free speech values in the West. (here and here and here). This has included attacks in the United States (here and here and here and here). Now, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh has prepared his city for its bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics by effectively suspending free speech for city employees and banning them from uttering any negative comments about the Games or the process. I suppose Walsh can cite John Adams’ infamous use of the Alien and Sedition Acts as precedent.

The agreement with the United States Olympic Committee prohibits city workers from making written or verbal statements that “reflect unfavorably upon, denigrate or disparage, or are detrimental to the reputation” of the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee or the Olympic Games. That should make many Olympic members like Iran, China, and North Korea feel right at home. Chairman Walsh’s little speech code tells employees that they “shall each promote” the city’s bid “in a positive manner.”

The language chosen bears striking resemblance to the language of the Sedition Act banning anyone from “willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of the Government of the United States.” Substitute the Olympics and you have basically the same standard.

Weirdly, Walsh’s office says that by prohibiting speech “Mayor Walsh is not looking to limit the free speech of his employees and, as residents of Boston, he fully supports them participating in the community process.” So long as they do not say anything negative. That could not be more clear, right?

It is also good to see the USOC representing our values so well formally curtailing speech as a condition for a bid like a guarantee of roads and infrastructure. Indeed the Olympic Committee could accurately be described as displaying “ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice.” However, those words got Vermont Rep. Matthew Lyon jailed in 1800 under the Sedition Act.

I honestly do not know why Boston would want the games. The Olympic stadium itself would be built on parcel of open land but then broken down after the games. These games have tended to bankrupt or financially strain cities. I love Boston and I would hate to see it lose its charm under the onslaught of the games.

Employees are commonly under speech codes generally to guarantee that their statements do not interfere with city business. However, the inclusion of a speech code for games in Boston would have Thomas Paine spinning in his grave. It is also unnecessary since current rules give supervisors ample leeway in encouraging employees not to undermine city policies or bids.

Source: NY Times

26 thoughts on “Boston Mayor Bans Sports Sedition: Walsh Prohibits Any Negative Talk About the Olympics By City Employees”

  1. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…”

    What part of this am I missing?

    We all know, and we’ve known for 226 years, what part the SCOTUS is missing; the whole thing.

    So, bottom line, America is not good at addressing corruption; especially the egregious corruption of the SCOTUS which would have us believe it cannot read simple English.

    And, BTW, what would this be like in terms of understanding some basic truths of life that the Founders JUST KNEW WE UNDERSTOOD AND HAD A KEEN GRASP OF:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of BUSINESS, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

    They thought you knew.

    They thought you knew from the Articles of Confederation that the “utility” of the currency was to be stable and GOLD-BACKED.

    They thought you knew that they established FREEDOM and SELF-RELIANCE (no regulation, no redistribution) because they LIVED IT.

  2. Re Schulte’s comment that this may not be legal, I wouldn’t bet on it being an unconstitutional exercise of the mayor’s authority given the current Supreme Court’s recent opinions. If it were my kingdom, as long as the speech occurred outside of the workplace on the employees’ own time, they would be able to say whatever they want. Another draconian example of a restriction that occurs here in the City of San Diego and probably in most major cities: no fraternization between management and labor (the City of San Diego prohibits dating between the two groups, an unchallenged quasi-military notion tending toward indentured servitude on a 24/7 basis it seems to me, and worse it’s subject to discharge; think about that for a second). What’s free speech about anyway if you can’t criticize government or for that matter date who you want to? I’m sure there are some who can make what they consider strong arguments as to why both are valid rules, but speech and privacy rights are of much greater import.


    BOSTON — A new WBUR poll shows that although a majority of Bostonians support a 2024 Olympic bid, an overwhelming number of residents want a referendum on the issue.

    Three-quarters of poll respondents said residents in Boston and surrounding towns should vote on whether to host the 2024 Summer Games.

    “People want the ability to have a say and that goes even for supporters, they want the ability to vote,” said Steve Koczela with The MassINC Polling Group, which conducted this survey for WBUR (topline results, crosstabs).

    The poll response is in stark contrast to the city’s plans. Mayor Marty Walsh has said there will be no referendum; he made that clear in a press conference the day after Boston was chosen as the United States Olympic Committee’s golden city for 2024.

  4. Do they play football in the Olympics these days? There is a huge problem with guys like this Mayor having inflated balls. It takes a lot of balls to tell city employees that they cannot speak out on matters of public concern. Especially of the citizen/employees want to petition their state government for redress of grievances. A grievance might be wasting taxpayer money on some stadium or inflating balls at taxpayer expense. If the folks working for the city know how to postulate their spoken and written expressions of free speech in an effort to petition their government for redress of grievances, and some schmuck gets in their way, then we have a nice lawsuit under Section 1983 and the First Amendment and the Mayor is the prime defendant along with all fellow conspirators under Section 1985 and the Mayor and coherts are liable for actual and punitive damages and the city is on the hook for actual damages but not puns and all defendants are on the hook for attorneys fees under Section 1988. So, we are talking of millions of dollars at issue here for trying to keep the yakkers quiet. This Mayor went in dumb and is coming out dumb too.

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