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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