Reporter Tries to Get Tucson Police Officer in Trouble — for Exercising His First Amendment Right

Arizona Daily Star reporter Tim Steller suggests Brandon Tatum violated the Police Department's rules for something he said as a private citizen.

By Rachel Alexander Published on October 2, 2017

Tucson Police Officer Brandon Tatum has a First Amendment right to free speech. But you wouldn’t know that from the way a reporter has targeted him for saying something the reporter doesn’t like.

On September 24, Tatum made a video monologue expressing his dissatisfaction with the NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem. Tatum, who is black, did not identify himself as a police officer. He made it as a private citizen. The seven minute speech went viral, receiving over 500,000 views on Facebook. He has over 35,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel. 

Tatum’s Message to NFL Players

Arizona Daily Star reporter Tim Steller published an article on Friday questioning whether the video violated TPD’s departmental rules. Titled “Tucson Police Officer Pushes Boundaries With Viral Rants,” he cites a TPD policy that prohibits officers from posting anything discriminatory on social media.

“As an African-American in this country, I love the flag.” — Brandon Tatum

The viewer may wonder how Tatum’s video discriminates against anyone. He argues that kneeling during the anthem disrespects the flag and the nation it stands for. “You’re talking about an anthem of hope and unity within this country,” he says. That country

has made people become great, that has made the poor become rich and given people opportunities. You’re talking about a flag that represents hard work, dedication, blood, sweat and tears, sacrifice.

The players kneeling “want to attribute all the negativity” to the flag, but “don’t want to attribute the positive.” 

Most NFL fans know that. He warns the players about alienating their fan base: “When you spit in their face, they will no longer support you.”

An Inappropriate Protest

Tatum also believes kneeling’s an inappropriate way to protest. The National Anthem has nothing to do with the problems the athletes say they’re protesting. He observes that Martin Luther King, Jr., had bipartisan support for his protests, because he conducted them with integrity.

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Tatum says, “These clowns are doing things out of trendiness.” If they really care about black lives, then they need to be out there in the black community. He asks, “What has happened since Colin Kaepernick took a knee?” Nothing has changed, nothing is going to change. “Stop whining like a baby. … As an African-American in this country, I love the flag.”

Tatum reminds the athletes that if they lose, they come back again to play another game. Those who died for the flag in military service don’t get a second chance. They’re the people the athletes are disrespecting, he says.

So who exactly is Brandon Tatum discriminating against? Other black Americans? No. Who else? Hugely well-paid NFL players? No. Unless disagreeing with them amounts to discrimination — and it doesn’t.

Steller’s Squelching of Free Speech

“It is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves,” says conservative talk show host James T. Harris, quoting SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas’s remarks from his confirmation hearings. Harris is also black and based in Tucson.

“If Brandon had made a video praising the kneeling which went viral, Steller wouldn’t have written anything critical,” he notes. 

The only thing the left dislikes more than conservatives are black conservatives.

Harris himself has been subject to “blacklash” harassment by the left for years, including by The Arizona Daily Star. Someone at the paper called him a Nazi. In a Facebook post, editorial cartoonist David Fitzsimmons said he was going to get Harris’s advertisers to boycott his radio show. Harris’s fans bombarded the Star, forcing Fitzsimmons to back down.

Steller’s Free Speech Problem

Tim Steller apparently doesn’t understand the First Amendment. Or he doesn’t want it to apply to people who disagree with him. And he’s happy to use an irrelevant bureaucratic regulation to try to squelch the rights of others. Don’t like what a man says on his own time? Threaten his job. 

Here’s the funny thing: The kneeling NFL players have no legal right to free speech on the field. They’re employees who violated one of their employer’s rules. Brandon Tatum has a right to free speech. His talk was clearly protected speech. Does Steller really want to create a world in which public employees can be penalized for things they say as private citizens? Shouldn’t a journalist have a better understanding of freedom than that?

Apparently not.

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  • Andrew Mason

    Actually there are countries where private speech by public employees comes with penalties. And it’s not just public employee – regular employees have been sacked for expressing the wrong view.

  • Rachel, we agree so much it gets scary. Good job.

    • Rachel Alexander

      Reminds me of that quote that everyone always gets wrong 🙂

      Great minds think alike, and fools seldom differ.

  • Bob Adome

    How can so many supposedly ‘educated’ journalist be so ignorant?

  • Eugene Davis, Sr.

    He’s really off base regarding his comments. President Trump is also off base and disingenuous in regard to his comments about patriotism. He called Senator John McCain a non-hero, who serve in active combat and became a POW. This is much more than our classless President has done on behalf of America. I preface this comment with the fact that I’m an African American male who is a Republican, and who voted for President Trump. Let’s see him acknowledge what the protest is about and be the President of all of America – the Black, Brown, Yellow and White parts. Let him show at least half of the class of former President Obama, whose policies I did not support for the most part. However, his class and professionalism far outdistances our current Commander in Chief who marginalizes so many of the core members of American society. Let him lead by example and not by an undisciplined mouth.

    • BroFrank

      What, exactly, are the kneeling protests about??

      • Eugene Davis, Sr.

        The kneeling protests are about law enforcement, who are called of God to protect and serve, harassing, injuring, assaulting, and killing African American citizens who are driving at a much higher rate than white American citizens or any other sector of the American public. The term is DWB or Driving While Black. The collateral damage is significant in regards to mobility which affects your livelihood in so many ways. The basic scenario involves the officers trailing you, running your plates, stopping and oftentimes illegally searching your vehicle without probable cause. Unfortunately, it is the norm the east coast to the west coast, and from the north to the south. Another phase occurs with exorbitant legal charges, fees, and sentences for those African Americans inflicted. For example, I was in court room contesting a series of tickets where the judge, who a Caucasian female, who had recently been cited for drunk driving herself and was wearing a tether on her leg. I had been in this courtroom before fighting what I believed to be unjust tickets. I witnessed her give out significant sentences,fees, and driving suspensions to African Americans especially the males,which dramatically effected them keeping their jobs and providing for their families while she violated a much higher infraction in driving drunk, and she still was able to not only keep her job, but keep judging other cases involving the same type of infractions. She was extremely harsh and nasty while on the bench before her conviction of drunk driving and she continued to be harsh even after her conviction. Again, this scenario is not uncommon across America.
        A successful protest would cause the federal Attorney General, as well as state AG’s, and County Commissioners to survey and bring needed oversight to this plight of African American citizens who have been in this country since it’s beginning. President Trump could echo or even just acknowledge that this is the scenario instead of denigrating our famous athletes in the way that he has. He spoke a different tune during his campaign,now it time to put some substance behind those shallow words that he uttered during his campaign. The recent hurricanes,and the tragedy of what occurred in Las Vegas have been for the most part met by him with the due reverence that the situation calls for. Why not do the same in regards to the systemic discrimination regarding African Americans? Black Live Matter too! I know that the tensions would die down quite a bit. Granted there are those who protest for the sake of protest, but that is not the vast majority of people. Also, I’m not advocating for those who are hardened criminal of color or those who haven’t contributed to the good of American society. We need jails and prisons for that segment of society, but I truly believe that they are the minority and that most Americans of all colors are law abiding citizens all things being equal.

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