On December 30th, the day after the Cotton Bowl, Alohi Gilman became subject of a letter supposedly written by six Navy veterans. On Wednesday the contents of the letter became public knowledge via Twitter. A massive show of support for Alohi poured out from fellow teammates and others that follow him on Twitter. Public opinion scorned the authors of the letter. This article is not going to be a history lesson on the First Amendment, but a reminder that these are student-athletes and that they should not have to face this type of scrutiny from those with different views of their decisions made. It’s a hot button topic that I had recently discussed. Please understand that I am not lumping all military personnel into this mindset of this letter that was sent. This article is solely addressing the letter that was made public on Twitter.
The First Amendment
In the United States, as one of the rights under the First Amendment Right is the Freedom of Speech. But, there are categories of Free Speech that are given lesser or no protection under the First Amendment. Obscenity, fraud, child pornography, and speech connected to illegal conduct. Within these limited areas, other limitations on free speech balance rights to free speech and other rights, such as rights for authors over their works (copyright). Protection from imminent or potential violence against particular persons, restrictions on the use of untruths to harm others (slander). The letter matches up closely within the context of slander. (contents researched through wikipedia)
The Letter starts with the displeasure that the writer’s have with Alohi’s decision to leave the Naval Academy and transfer to Notre Dame. Gilman transferred from the Naval Academy at the end of the 2016 season and was on the scout team during the 2017 season.
The letter goes on to discuss his academic record as questionable. A poor choice of words saying “he spit on the American Flag” and that he “transferred out of the Naval Academy in order to jump start his chances to the NFL” through Notre Dame. The letter starts to wrap up with discussion on he got “beaten badly and totally embarrassed by Clemson.” The author wraps up the statement by calling Gilman “mediocre at best.” The author then uses words like “coward” and “that the military is probably better off without him.” The letter comes to a conclusion by stating “we strongly urge you to commit to some form of service in the future. It will help rehabilitate your image as well as give you a chance to atone.”
Treatment of Student-Athletes By The Public At Large
First of all no one deserves to to spoken to in this manner, and no one is perfect. As a parent, I have raised my daughter with this basic mannerism. Be respectful of others and their decisions. We all make bad choices on occasion. We must live with the choices we make. As Coach Lou Holtz said “Life is nothing more than making good choices,” Holtz said. “There are three rules I have followed that allowed me to make good choices.”
Do the right thing.“I don’t think it’s right to find a teammate’s wallet before he lost it.”
Do everything to the best of your ability.“Not because somebody is looking, but because it’s just the way you live.”
Care about other people around you.
Alohi made the best decision for himself and his future. If the Naval Academy wasn’t working for him, then he deserves to explore other options. We do it all the time. Whether it’s a job that isn’t working out for us or a relationship that just cannot be sustained. There is no need to continue down a path that isn’t working out for you.
Beyond the letter, there are many that scrutinize the student-athletes as a whole. Whether it is a player who verbally commits then decommits before signing, a player that doesn’t perform well in a game and there is fan reaction to have the player not play at that position. There are many levels at which some fans feel they know what is best for the team. Student-athletes are human beings too. They make mistakes like the rest of us. When someone scrutinizes us in our daily lives, when we don’t meet their level of expectation, there is a strong dislike for the criticism that is received. The same thought should be given for the chastising given by an unhappy fan. On the other hand, the only thing you hear from the student-athletes is that they love the fans, love the game of football and that they love Notre Dame.
People who criticize student-athletes, need to take a deeper look inside themselves and ask the following questions, Would I send my son or daughter to a university with a fan base that is going to openly bash my child for poor performance? Is this the way I would want to be treated if I was in this position? The answer would probably be NO to both questions.
A Response To The Letter
“To say it’s a travesty is an understatement. What changed culturally that adults now insult kids playing a game? We all sit back and say how terrible, but are we complicit? We all have strong opinions about “our team”, and in a realm where winner takes all, at what point do we as the facilitators, not only financially, but passionately, say enough is enough? What is more important a win or these young men’s lives?
To claim Gilman spit on the American flag because he transferred, a letter authored by “veterans” should be more than a wake up call to us all. 18-22 year old kids that do nothing but entertain us are not targets for our folly. Their focus is a college education and to play the sport they love, not bob and weave supposed fan’s vitriol.”
I would love to hear a response from all of you. I took a couple days to write this article so that I would be able to clearly address the issue versus writing an article that seemed to be a knee-jerk reaction to an incident. Please feel to respond to the article through the articles response link.
Cheers and Go Irish! ☘🏈⚡