November 16th, 2007 02:09 EST
Group Backs Punishment for Bush-Bashing Bridge Players
Washington, D.C. - Activists affiliated with the Project 21 black leadership network support proposed sanctions for the unrepentant members of a women's bridge team who disparaged President George W. Bush while representing the United States in international competition. Project 21 activists say team members betrayed their responsibility to remove their personal politics from their professional responsibilities.
"Any team representing the United States that diminishes the presidency and embarrasses the American people should have been immediately sent home, and remorseless members now deserve the punishment their sanctioning organization deems appropriate," said Project 21 member Joe R. Hicks. "We already endure near-treasonous and often child-like antics from Hollywood celebrities and musicians that demean our nation. It is sad that our official women's bridge team can now be included among this crowd."
At a tournament held in Shanghai, China in October, team members held up a hand-made sign reading "We did not vote for Bush" when they were recognized at the event's awards dinner. Gail Greenberg, the team's captain, told the New York Times it was "a moment of levity" and "what we were trying to say... to our friends from other countries, was that... we want you to know that we, too, are critical [of President Bush and his policies]."
Three team members later expressed regret for offending others with the sign, but Greenberg and three others who did not apologize now face sanctions from the United States Bridge Federation (USBF) - the organization that selects teams for international tournaments. A hearing to decide their fate will be held at the Fall North American Bridge Championship in San Francisco later this month. The four currently face a one-year suspension, a year of probation, 200 hours of community service, a required letter of apology and be required to give a full accounting about the reasons and actions for displaying the offending sign.
USBF president Jan Martel told the Times: "This isn't a free-speech issue... There isn't any question that private organizations can control the speech of people who represent them."
"This team was supposed to be representing our nation and its people, but its members acted in a disrespectful manner by holding up an anti-Bush sign. It was crude partisan political theatre," added Project 21's Hicks. "As a neophyte in the then-burgeoning Black Power movement, I remember when several black members of the U.S. track team engaged in a 'black power' salute while on the victory stand at the 1964 Olympics in Mexico City. They were summarily hustled home. I think it was completely proper for the U.S. Olympic Committee to do what they did. There was a great deal of discrimination against blacks at that time, but those men should have understood they were representing all of America and not just black Americans. Similarly, these women today were representing our nation and not just Bush-hating leftists. It was stupid, immature and frankly anti-American behavior. I'm sure the Dixie Chicks were proud of these women. If there is no punishment for this current unsportsmanlike behavior, seditious, partisan and juvenile behavior will have been rewarded."
In addition to his work with Project 21, Hicks is currently the vice president of Community Advocates, Inc. in Los Angeles, California. He previously served as executive director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the California State Bar's Board of Governors.
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Project 21's website at www.project21.org/P21Index.html.
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