As reported by SFGate.com, Tony Blankley has passed away.  Blankley was best known as Newt’s press secretary when Newt was the majority leader. My path crossed with his when we were both at the State Attorney General’s office in California. He and I would discuss politics and we agreed on virtually nothing except the civility with which to conduct the discussion. Blankley had that wonderful British accent, which belied the fact that he was one of a gaggle of Jewish boys that had graduated from Fairfax High School.

What does this have to do with sports? In virtually every team event these days, the winners and losers shake hands or give hugs at the end of the contest. Before the ’70s, you never saw that. The philosophy was that you were to hate the other team with a purple passion. Today’s players (albeit well-paid) have realized it is better to focus on the game than hating your opponent. Politics is both a game and a serious calling, but on the day of the New Hampshire primary, and in honor of Tony, perhaps we should all realize the beauty of the clash of ideas and not individuals…

As reported on ESPN.COM on August 13, 2011, Ok State’s Mike Gundy is being sued by his carpenter. The dude showed up wearing an Oklahoma T-shirt and allegedly was greeted by profanity, insults and accusations.

Silly but interesting. We believe in free speech in this country, but do not always like to see it exercised. Also, unless there is a public aspect to the speech, you do not have to hire a Democratic plumber or a Republican gardner. And team affiliation sure is not a protected class, such as race or gender.

As featured in myFOXphoenix.com on April 29, 2010, Chicago area baseball fans are planning a protest against the Arizona immigration act when the Diamondbacks come to town.

Feelings run high on both sides of these issues, but what is interesting for purposes of this blog is that over a third of baseball players are Latin American, who are typically associated with immigration issues. So far (at least as far as we have seen) none have stepped forward to offer an opinion on the act.

Throughout the years athletes have run the gamut from Jackie Robinson and Mohammed Ali speaking out on social issues to Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods (nada that we have heard).  It will be interesting to see if Latino athletes are called out to express their opinions.

However, this may be less likely in an age where athletes are concerned about multi-million dollar sponsorship deals and image control. It may very well be that some prominent Latino athletes may have strong views about Arizona’s immigration law, but prefer to remain quiet in a controversial issue. Perhaps strong financial interests supersede 1st Amendment rights for some athletes.   

Charles A. De Monaco contributed to this post.

In the ABC News‘ article, Justice Department Won’t Recommend Posthumous Pardon for Nation’s First Black Boxing Champ, it was reported that the Justice Department won’t recommend a posthumous pardon for Jack Johnson, the nation’s first African American heavyweight champion who was sentenced to prison nearly a century ago “because of romantic ties with a white woman.”

Black & white image of boxer, Jack Johnson in 1909Here is what is likely going on:

The Justice Department is refusing to process posthumous pardon requests because its resources are scarce and the Pardon Attorney takes the position that its resources are best used on behalf of people “who can truly” benefit from them.

It’s possible that a miscarriage of justice occurred in the Johnson case, but it’s hard to establish a wrongful conviction. Mr. Johnson was convicted by a jury and sentenced by a federal judge. The Federal Appeals Court upheld in part and reversed in part certain counts in the Johnson indictment alleging violations of The Mann Act. Witnesses have died long ago and historical records would have to be scrutinized to firmly understand the facts surrounding his conviction.

It would be deplorable, indeed, if only reason for the conviction was the color of Johnson’s skin. Setting aside the policy implications of a posthumous pardon in this case, a pardon would have no practical effect to Johnson.

Not be forgotten is that the President is not bound by the Justice Department’s decision and has the power under the Constitution to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment. Thus, the matter is likely to be passed to the President in a time when his plate is more than full. Upshot: This is not something likely to be passed on soon.

Image: John McNab