- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2000

John Rocker, appearing today at New York's Shea Stadium for the first time since his infamous interview with Sports Illustrated, needs more defense than anything 600 extra police officers can provide. He needs more than undercover cops policing the stands, and more than whatever protective covering Mets officials erect around the bull pen to shield the relief pitcher from "fans" hurling assorted missiles in his direction. He needs the protection of his fellow Americans.

But Rocker needs defenders and not just for his own good. The ease with which the relief pitcher has become a historic whipping boy proves the extent to which political correctness has become an inviolable creed in this country. The effort to silence, punish and perhaps destroy Rocker in the name of this creed reveals something very disturbing.

Think about it. For comments that were, even unexpurgated, too mild for a Chris Rock or a Don Imus, Rocker was universally condemned, then compelled by Major League Baseball to undergo "sensitivity training" to "correct" his viewpoints. He apologized, he paid his fine and he sat out the opening games of the new season. No matter. He remains ensconced in the national pantheon of public enemies.

Not that Rocker has ever hurt anyone, nor has he incited violence. The fact is, Rocker's crime is twofold. First, there is his heritage. As a Southern white male, Rocker falls into an "unprotected" group whose speech has been limited to "correct" expressions of support for "protected" groups. (The casual acceptance of this speech limitation reveals how receptive America is to what Dennis Prager, author of an excellent study of the Rocker phenomenon in the Weekly Standard, calls "a totalitarian impulse.") Second, Rocker picked on foreigners, homosexuals, welfare mothers, ex-cons, people with purple hair and Japanese lady drivers protected groups, all. Too bad. He could have made cracks about Mormons with impunity, as basketball's Dennis Rodman has. Or, to be truly au courant, he could have insulted Cuban-Americans, Catholics or Cuban-American Catholics to no notice. This may not be surprising, but it is troubling or should be. In America, everyone's freedom of speech is supposed to be protected. It should never be too much trouble for anyone to explain and defend that.

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