Fired for wearing a Packer tie and the cyberbullying of Jay Cutler

Lest someone get the wrong idea, let me state my fandom up front: I have been a Chicago Bears and pro football fan since I was a kid. I maintain a mental shrine to the legendary 1985 Bears team, and I dutifully participate every year in a fantasy football league run by a college classmate.

Over the weekend, I was so worked up in anticipation of the Bears-Packers playoff matchup that I had trouble concentrating on anything else in the hours before kickoff. Alas, the Bears fell short of the mark. But there are two news stories more disturbing to me than the result of the game.

Fired for wearing a Packers tie

As reported by Yahoo! sports (link here), a fellow named John Stone was fired from his job at a Chicagoland car dealership because he committed the sin of wearing a Packers tie to work:

From Chicago’s WGNtv.com comes the unfortunately real story of a Chicago car salesman who was fired because he wore a Green Bay Packers tie to work. And making it even worse, the man wore it because his grandma was a Packers fan who had recently died and was buried two days before her beloved team’s NFC Championship game matchup with the Chicago Bears.

I don’t know all the details on Stone’s employment status, but it’s likely that he was employed on an at-will basis, meaning that he can be terminated for any reason or no reason at all.

Furthermore, to the extent that wearing a tie with a Packers logo might be considered an expression of free speech, it is highly unlikely that the law protects it. (Constitutional free speech protections do not extend into private sector workplaces. If you want a treatise-length explanation, check out my law review article, here.)

I’ll leave it to you to decide if this was, in view of the circumstances, a boneheaded and cruel decision, even if the employer was within its rights to do so.

Cyberbullied

Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler sat out most of the second half of the game with a knee injury that turned out to be a ligament tear serious enough to knock most players out of action for 3-4 weeks.

Even before the diagnosis, that didn’t stop some of Cutler’s NFL contemporaries from tweeting during the game that he was giving up on his team and faking his injury (link here), such as these comments from Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew:

When the going gets tough……..QUIT..

All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee… I played the whole season on one…

Yup, it’s called cyberbullying. Just like adolescent schoolgirls defaming a classmate with online putdowns, these guys immediately took to the Internet to question Cutler’s courage and manhood. Funny how they also chose to ignore the fact that he was tough enough to take a horrific beating this season, playing behind an offensive line that offered him little protection from defensive onslaughts.

Now the truth about Cutler’s injury is known, but the damage has been done. The game wasn’t an hour old before the narrative was set: Jay Cutler folded instead of leading his team in a playoff game where everything was on the line.

I hope this young man wins a Super Bowl or two (in a Bears uniform, thank you) to give the story a better and more just ending.

2 responses

  1. I grew up on the South Side and I have been a Sox and Bears fan since infancy. My father led the marching band for the Chicago Cardinals. I know who the Monsters of the Midway were. I myself have a question about Cutler but I certainly give him the benefit of any doubt, and, last I heard, the injury was a “sprained” MCL, not a tear. But, with lack of medical knowledge, that seems enough for me. It is certainly also true that the O-Line could have been called out by Cutler, especially early in the season, but he kept mum. The real problem for the Bears has been their ownership. George Halas was as great as they come (for a cheapskate) and his son Muggsy seemed good also. But, his daughter, Virginia McCaskey and her children leave a lot to be desired. Most specifically, the lack of a first-class quarterback since Sid Luckman. Jim McMahon was a leader and appropriate for his team, but his passes were like Ruptured Ducks. Bill Wade in ’63?
    As to the Packers tie-wearer, it is a sad story and I would not have done it had I been the employer. But I think people have to remember that if you work in a place that has to please the public, e.g., sales, you may have to reasonably conform to what the public expects. Or the sales may go to a competitor; sad but true. I once saw a New Yorker cartoon that had a woman in a sickbed being treated by someone in a clown costume. She did not look reassured, and her husband said, “Thank the Lord, honey, we found this doctor at the costume party.” Public expectations that seem reasonable will probably not be ignored by the law.

    • Don, you know your Bears history! Yes, the pantheon of Great Bear Quarterbacks would not exactly stuff the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (And let’s not forget the likes of recent stalwarts like Cade McNown.)

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