J-Ho Follow-Up: NBA Best Off Not Acting

A Daily Babble Production

There wasn't much room left for interpretation in this space on Friday: Josh Howard earns no credit here.

In a nutshell, Howard's actions caught on camera at Allen Iverson's charity flag football game were unprofessional and wholly disrespectful of this country's national anthem and all for which it stands.  No matter the content of his commentary - and I've got no real desire to get into that at present - the way he handled pressing his grievance didn't merit any respect.

But Eddie Sefko's piece for the Dallas Morning News brought up an issue for Howard beyond the personal respects of one CelticsBlog writer: possible discipline from the NBA for his actions.

Sefko cites past incidences of NBA players making inflammatory comments and not being punished as evidence that the league won't go after Howard this time around.  Here's guessing he's right, and if so, that the league will be taking the right course of (in)action.

Read More..All of Steve's daily posts can be found in the CelticsBlog: NBA blog.  Check him out!

What Howard did can be described with any number of negative adjectives.  "Thoughtless" is chief among them.

But it wasn't illegal, and it didn't break any league rules.  It's also far from the most punishable action Howard has committed this summer.

While I'll criticize Josh Howard's approach until I'm blue in the face, there is no contesting his right to say what he said, like it or not.  For all of us who are upset over what Howard had to say about this country, it bears remembering that a big part of what constitutes this country's identity is that folks like Howard - and everyone else - have the right to express whatever views they please.

It's ironic, sure.  But irony doesn't negate Howard's right.  In fact, it's worth remembering that a primary part of the significance of the First Amendment is the protection it offers to those with perspectives that are in the minority.  The majority generally isn't in any danger.  But America prides itself on its ability to welcome the dissenters and uphold their rights as well, no matter how unpopular their beliefs may be. 

From a purely legal standpoint, Howard did nothing punishable.  As Daily Babble devotee and frequently entertaining e-mailer The Walker Wiggle intimates, Howard's drag racing antics are the action that should be in play if the league is thinking about disciplining him for anything.  That would be the event in which Howard broke the law and could have been putting the lives of others in danger.  During the anthem, he was simply using poor judgment in exercising his rights.  Insolence is no crime.

If the league really were intent on punishing Howard (although we're with Sefko that it won't be), it might be able to make a case on the side of Howard acting inappropriately as a representative of the league.  But he didn't do what he did for any sort of official media (last I checked, the online journalism age hasn't advanced to a point at which FCC statutes cover camera phones), so action for the league would likely be construed as related to the political content of his commentary rather than the obscenity he used.  Again, this is crucial: Howard didn't take any shots at the league or his employers.  He didn't advocate illegal activities.  He made a (completely unsubstantiated) statement of political expression.  Disciplining him because the league didn't like its style or content could only open a sizable can of legal worms for the Association.  That's a road best not traveled.

The contempt for Josh Howard's irreverence for the national anthem and all that it stands for remains high here.  Irresponsibility and insolence can and probably should lose Josh Howard some respect.  But they shouldn't cost him any pay or games played. 

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