The Courage to Speak Up

Watching the football play-off game this weekend between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings, Randy Moss, the star wide receiver for the Vikings, caught a touchdown pass and then mimicked “shooting the moon” to the stadium crowd and national TV audience. Just last week, again on national TV, Moss walked off the field early to go to the locker room while his teammates continued to play. No one said very much last weekend, and when Joe Buck the TV announcer wanted to talk about Moss’s classless act this weekend, his fellow announcers did do all they could to change the subject – and they did. I suspect the producers from FOX whispered into their ears that they shouldn't alienate the TV audience.

Then just a few minutes later in the game, the broadcasters celebrated Moss’s new game hairdo, as if they were trying to get themselves back into his good graces; as if, they were afraid they had maybe insulted him by momentarily begrudging his earlier behavior. Now, believe it or not, they were cow-towing to him.

When will people stand up and say that his behavior was simply wrong. That it was ugly; that it insults our base sensibilities; that we do not want our children witnessing it; that it was outside appropriate boundaries?

Oh, I can hear the counter-arguments already: Who is to say what is right and wrong; why am I picking on a football player when corporate executives or politicians do worse; aren't social norms changing and don’t I need to become more hip, or something?

My response is that Moss’s actions – and the duplicity of the TV analysts – were deplorable. Indeed, I have spent my entire career traveling across this nation working with people of every race, ethnicity, economic status, geography and I can tell you that on such matters there is widespread agreement. What Moss and the TV mouthpieces did was just wrong.

The problem is that many of us have become cowed by the few. We are afraid to speak up. We are resigned to a corrosive silence.

We know better.

And the National Football League knows better, too. They have turned competitive football into a crass entertainment engine, in which they will do almost anything to make a cheap buck.

What can we do? We can speak up. We say to each other that the kind of behavior that Moss and the analysts engaged in was wrong.

When we do speak up, we will realize that there are more of us who share common views than we think; that we do hold shared norms. We will begin to see that we have the power to reclaim inherent goodness in society – by what we say and do.

The first step is to talk to one another. Then we spread the good word.