The Monday night football game between the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers was interrupted by a fellow who ran onto the field carrying a device that was releasing pink smoke. After successfully eluding the stadium’s security personnel long enough to run across the field and then start back across, Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner, with an assist from teammate Takkarist McKinley, tackled the intruder, whereupon security took control and removed the protester from the premises.
It was a small incident, but with important implications. The reports were that the intruder (I can’t call him a fan or even a spectator since he obviously had a different reason for being in the stadium, nor will I publicize his name) was making a protest for “animal rights.” The protester was “cited” and then released. That should have been the end of the matter, but then the protester went to the Santa Clara Police Department and filed a complaint against Wagner and McKinley, accusing them of “brutal assault.” Now I (and hopefully many others) feel obliged to push back at his effrontery, arrogance, and antisocial behavior.
What a colossally stupid way to try to promote a cause — by acting like a jackass in front of over 71,000 spectators at the stadium and tens of millions watching on TV. “Animal rights” is an asinine, wacky concept if there ever was one. My heart is with organizations like the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but to put animals on the same level as humans by positing that they have “rights” (i.e., legal standing in courts of law) is — to put it delicately — problematical.
More importantly, how are we to respect this or any individual’s appeal for certain so-called “rights” when the protester himself was so cavalier about violating the clear-cut rights of fellow human beings?
The protester had absolutely no right to go onto the playing field during the game. The owners and managers of the home team (the 49ers) had the exclusive right to determine who was permitted on the field and who was not. Being on the field when the clock is running is a right that belongs exclusively to the players and the onfield officials, and no protester has a right to violate their space.
The protester should consider himself lucky that Wagner and McKinley acted with relative restraint. And how does the goofball repay their restraint? By filing a complaint against them to the police. What chutzpah! This is like the burglar who sues the owner of a home that he burgled for leaving a roller skate on the staircase, causing the burglar to fall and get injured. Hey, Mr. Protester, man up! You brought your lumps upon yourself.
If the NFL wants to deter self-important jerks from interrupting games with protests, they should make an example out of this most recent offender. In addition to violating the rights of the NFL, 49ers, and players, coaches, and staffs of both teams, the protester violated the rights of all the fans who paid to see a football game. They paid good money to see a good football game, not to see the flow of the game interrupted or to have to sit through a distracting, unwelcome, and uninvited protest. The intruder also trespassed on the rights of ESPN, the network that paid who knows how many millions of dollars for the right to televise that game. ESPN should calculate how much money it spent for however many seconds the protester stole. Then a judge should fine the intruder that amount, obliging him to recompense ESPN for its loss.
Do I expect for one minute that such a fine will be levied? No, I don’t. Am I opposed to the right of anyone to protest on behalf of their favorite cause? No; on the contrary, I encourage them to speak out, but to do so when and where they are not disrespecting the rights of others. There is too much glib talk about “rights” in our politics these days, and it has given the dangerous impression that a person has a right to ignore the rights of others when it’s done for a supposedly worthy cause.
We must never forget that our rights make us equal before the law. The rights of individuals do not grant a privilege to violate the rights of tens of thousands of other people.