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Ron Rivera Loves The First Amendment Like Only A Football Coach Can

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

During a Tuesday morning press conference, Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera explained how he went about addressing an uncomfortable situation with his defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio, who was fined $100,000 last week for calling the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6 a “dustup” and comparing it to the George Floyd protests of 2020. How did Rivera come to the conclusion that Del Rio needed to be fined? By eating up the First Amendment like it’s game tape.

Considering the First Amendment is just one sentence, and that the first five words are “Congress shall make no law,” it’s unclear exactly what useful insights Rivera gleaned from his studies, but hopefully they involved blowing up each word and making them into individual film slides so he could cycle through them on a projector screen. If your coach isn’t up at dawn to conduct film study of each individual word of the First Amendment, do you even have a coach?

Apparently, this isn’t even the first time he’s referenced his fondness for referencing the First Amendment.

Of course it’s great if anyone is thinking critically about free speech, but I have some questions. Is there a printed-out piece of paper on his desk with one sentence on it? A life-like replica of the Bill of Rights? A framed quote? And given that the amendment itself is not all that relevant to questions of how private companies should approach the speech of employees, and that it has even less to say about how speech acts on and interacts with other fundamental rights, how exactly is it helpful to him?

In the press conference, Rivera emphasized that Del Rio was not punished for sharing his opinions, but because he committed the gravest sin anyone associated with professional football could commit: he became a “distraction” for the team. He added that he “believes in the First Amendment very strongly.”

Maybe we’ll get some more answers if Del Rio goes the Sage Steele route.