February 24th, 2003

Toni Smith Story Breaks National

Better than a week after Off Wing Opinion first shed the spotlight on Division III basketball player Toni Smith’s protest against American foreign policy, the rest of the nation is starting to notice — courtesy of Manhattanville College senior explaining why she refuses to face the American flag before games as the National Anthem is being played:

“For some time now, the inequalities that are embedded into the American system have bothered me. As they are becoming progressively worse and it is clear that the government’s priorities are not on bettering the quality of life for all of its people, but rather on expanding its own power, I cannot, in good conscience, salute the flag,”

As I wrote in an email to a Manhattanville student earlier tonight, I wouldn’t have much of a problem if Smith expressed her disdain for American foreign policy by wearing a head band that said, “Bush Is Wrong,” or scrawled, “Stop The War Against Iraq,” across the soles of her Nikes. What bothers me is conflating a protest against the Bush Administration with a protest against the nation of her birth — one of the few nations in the world that guarantees her right to protest.

When I stand to honor the American flag before a sporting event, I stand to honor the nation, and those who sacrficed to create it and preserve it and our freedoms — and that’s the case no matter who might happen to be in charge of the government at the time.

I stand to honor patriots like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin who risked their lives and their sacred honor to bring our nation into being. I stand and remember the hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens who sacrificed their lives in service to their country in wartime — people like Nathan Hale, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and Louis E. Willet.

And finally, I also stand to honor those who gave their lives in the cause of demanding that America live up to its founding principles — men like Andrew Goodman, James Cheney and Mickey Schwerner.

So, when Toni Smith stands and turns her back on the flag, she turns her back on more than just a piece of cloth, she turns her back on the one thing that symbolizes the effort and sacrifice of the untold millions who contributed to the making of the American nation. And for that, and that alone, she deserves all the peaceful, but raucous, protest that she can handle.

UPDATE: Drudge has linked to the AP story. Look for it on a national newscast near you soon.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s another AP story, one that reports on the latest protest against Smith, where she was confronted on the court by a Vietnam veteran:

”She disgraced herself and she disgraced the flag,” said Jerry Kiley, 56, of Rockland County, N.Y., who was ejected from the arena after he walked onto the court during the first break in play.

Kiley approached Smith as she lined up while another player prepared to shoot free throws. He was escorted out of the gym by school security and local police. There were no further protests in Smith’s final home game of the regular season, a 63-53 victory over Stevens Tech.

With the victory, Manhattanville clinched the third seed in the Skyline Conference tournament — setting up a return engagement with the Merchant Marine Academy tomorrow night on Manhattanville’s home court.

Expect a New York Times story sometime in the next 24 hours.

Of course, the Skyline Conference gets its name from the proximity of the schools in the conference to the New York City skyline — something that was scarred forever after 9-11.

Ironic, isn’t it?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Welcome to everyone who has stumbled over my site via San Antonio radio talk show host Brad Messer. Here’s hoping you stick around a little while and check things out. And, as always, please be aware that Off Wing Opinion does accept tips.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News finds something admirable in all of this:

Smith’s protest is a big thing, mostly, because nobody else out there is doing it. It is astounding, a shame, so few athletes have publicly expressed their opinion on the issue of an impending war, pro or con.

While they may not be foreign policy experts, these players are being asked on a nightly basis to stand for the anthem of a nation on the brink of war. If sports events are inappropriate forums for political statements, then what exactly is “The Star-Spangled Banner”?

Link courtesy of The Daily Fix.

AGAIN, AN UPDATE: Here’s an account that originally ran in the The Journal News in White Plains, New York. It describes student reaction to Smith’s protest at Mt. St. Mary College in Newbergh, New York.

FINAL UPDATE: For all of you who have come here from various search engines, I thought it would be good to provide links to all of my other posts on Smith and her protest. You can find further discussion on these issues at the following links:

Toni Smith, 2/28

Toni Smith, 2/27

Toni Smith, 2/26

Toni Smith, 2/13

31 Responses to “Toni Smith Story Breaks National”

  1. Hose Monster says:

    You know, for all the traffic you get and all the reporting on this, how is it that nobody leaves you comments? Seems a little crappy to me. Just a thought.

    Nice work following all of this.

  2. Daren says:

    Hey… I want to roll up on Toni Smith’s web site. Any idea what the URL is? Thanks.

  3. The Houston Chronicle‘s John Lopez wrote about this yesterday.

  4. Mike Williams says:

    This is free country! So, by law she should be able to do what she want. I respect the flag, but I also respect what Toni did. What if this would of happen during slavery? Would she be wrong! The point is people are being treated bad in this nation. So, if you people fully like the flag and what it stand for, you would also recongizes the bad part of flag and that is what she is doing. Hey, I guess its not your problem when people poor are being treated like dirt in this nation “the greatest country on the face of thee earth”.

    We more people like Toni and not bandwagon people!

  5. Jonny Choi says:

    Toni’s an awesome chick! Her protest is silent and peaceful which is why I think it is getting to some people, namely that 56 year-old Vietnam veteran.

    All the best with your protest Toni, stand strong in your beliefs and good luck for the season!

    PS – What’s your email address?

  6. Sam Bronkawitz says:

    Toni’s protest is laughable. The girl is simply a brainwashed puppet who’s been pumped full of ignorant liberalism and misguided idealism (a real shocker from a Sociology major) by leftist academics who still flash the peace sign and haven’t worn shoes since the early 70′s. She needs to get off the bandwagon and start thinking for herself. No wonder our country is in such trouble…we spend valuable time focusing on a chick with a beef. I wonder what the weather is like on her planet…

  7. Nick says:

    I feel that Toni’s actions are disgrace to America and should be dealt with. By turning her back on the American flag, she is turning her back on freedom that our forefathers bled for. It also raises the point of if she even wants to be living in this grand country. I follow the belief of “America: Love it or Leave it!!” I had a grandfather in World War II and two uncle’s in the Vietnam War and they would be disgusted at this display. It may be a freedom of speech but considering the times that we are in, we need the support of the American people in order remain free. God Bless America

  8. Anthony says:

    By turning her back on the flag she is turning her back on her country at a time when it needs her the most. When we are on the verge of war we need to honor not only the Americans that are about to fight but the ones that have fought to keep this country free. She is turning her back on the mothers and fathers that will lose sons and daughters, the wifes that will lose husbands, the husbands and children that will lose a mother, etc. Our country does not ask that we understand nor agree with everything, but that we stand by her when decisions are being made that preserve freedoms and way of life we expect. Did Toni lose someone in the WTC?, will she expect her government to protect her against outside attacks? I would like to see her live in other countries where her actions would have cost her dearly. I get tired of the people that always quote the right to free speech while they bash the country they live in. All the while taking all the benefits, money, opportunity, freedom, etc. that they can grab while giving nothing. I wouldn’t want her in my foxhole. To me she is a traitor and all the comments about her “standing” up for what she thinks is right are crap. If you really believe that America is evil then you wouldn’t stay here. Why not leave? Why, Because you can get what you have here anywhere else on the planet. She knows it. People like her suck this country dry and then thumb their noses at what made this country great. Let her play basketball for Russia, Polland or any other country. She is looking for attention plain and simple, even negative attention. I’m proud to be an American. That doesn’t mean that I’ve agreed with everything but last I checked I wasn’t president. I would like to see more people effect change in more positive ways. After all, she’s young, healthy, enjoying a college education, playing sports and living in a country where she has more opportunity and freedom than anywhere else….let me see….seems like it would be worth perserving……

  9. Shane says:

    Why don’t she take her butt to Russia or somewhere if she don’t like it!! She is a disgrace to our country!!!

  10. Moe says:

    Freedom of speech, Freedom to think, freedom! These are the things we hold dear. If you attack this poor kid, it is as if you are attacking the American Flag itself. Destroying our way of life.

    With every hateful word toward her, you throw the flag to the ground. With your anger focused on her, you burn holes in old glory, setting it ablaze. With every thoughtless comment, you suck our flag dry of it’s colors. If we continue to try to shame and frighten everyone into silence, the flag may be just that someday, nothing but a flag, a piece of cloth.

    A flag, a song and a hand over your heart, symbolizing frightened silence and protecting nothing, other than our military might.

  11. The_Fist says:

    This human makes me vomit everytime I see, read or hear of her. The utter niave nature in which she bases her protest on is unbelievable. Let us spend more money to add more security to the games in which she plays. Her comment on her stat page, states, “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the military has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.” is yet another hypicritical ideal in which her lost mind has wondered.

    I say this with utter truth, because I am a United States Marine, willing to risk my life to protect the very flag in which she opposes.

    —Marine stationed in the Persian Gulf

  12. Gina says:

    I feel that Toni is a disgrace to this great nation that gives her the freedom and the way of life that I am sure she so much enjoys.
    So many people have died, given their lives for this great country and the beliefs that we stand for.
    You dont have to agree with everything the country decides to do, but you should ALWAYS render “Respect” to our flag, our flag stands for so much more than just a piece of cloth.
    I am a member of the Air Force, and I am willling to fight for the freedom of the United States, it disgusts me that I am fighting for a such an ungrateful, disrespectful and ignorant person like Toni Smith

  13. Sam Bronkawitz says:

    How can one with say that to voice one’s distaste for Toni’s actions is to “throw the flag to the ground”??? Is it just me, or is that line of thinking utterly bereft of logic? No one here is saying that she doesn’t have the right to express her anti-American ideals, or that she shouldn’t have that right. We are simply exercising our right to disagree with her and express our opposing views.

    The irony kills me. She turns away from the American flag in protest and is suddenly the Messiah of peace in the Middle East. Others express their opposition to her protest and suddenly they’re the Gestapo. It is as sad as it is ridiculous.


  14. Brad says:

    Toni’s “political” protest against the american flag is nothing more than an immature young woman that wants attention. She claims that she is a minority…. but where is she from??? AMERICA!!!… that classifies her as an american….. thats like saying im a minority because my family is from italy…. but, she says that there is too much social inequality in america right now, but im sorry, there is no way to fix that. as long as humans are breathing, there will always be a Rich-middle-poor class of citizens…. the only way to fix that is COMMUNISM…. so maybe toni should move to cuba or something, because if you look at the great political protestors of our history(ghandi, martin luther king, jr.) they DID NOT disprespect the symbol of their country…. TONI’S ACTS ARE ABSURD AND SHE SHOULD BE PUNISHED FOR HER CHILDISH, ATTENTION WANTING, ACTS OF PROTEST.

  15. Greg says:

    She says she doesn’t want to salute the flag because she does not like the government, but what the flag represents is the country and its freedoms and not the government. I guess she doesn’t like the country. Well there are plenty of other places she can go and I’ll pay for the ticket.

  16. Mike says:

    To go to a military school knowing it is full of brainwashed flagwavers, knowing they will jeer you and taunt you and perhaps worse, knowing this and still turning away from the flag? Toni you have more guts, more capacity to think for yourself, than all the cadets in that school combined. And here below is a letter to the editor I submitted a few days ago You had good coverage in the Keene Sentinel 2 days in a row. If all hate it but you alone like it? That will be plenty good enough for me.

    To The Editor:

    It is one thing to quietly distance oneself from this mindless flag waving society. Certainly it requires a degree of conviction. One needs to think for her or himself, and this is something society discourages. And how much more courage does it take to express this openly, In front of 100s, maybe 1000′s of people 20 or 30 times in one basketball season?

    Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. She did this once. She is a hero forever. Toni Smith is doing it again and again, game after game. Surely there are others who agree with Toni and would like to do away with this cowardly ritual of saluting a flag day after day. But they have not the guts to separate themselves from the crowd. Toni Smith is a truly authentic individual. One doesn’t see this quality often.

    Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh said: “When you speak the truth, the masses are against you. Truth is dangerous, dangerous to all those people who have been living in fictions, beautiful lies, nice dreams, utopias. Truth is bound to be looked on as an enemy by all these people, because it is going to shatter all that they have believed and lived for. Truth is just the death of all kinds of lies, howsoever consoling they may have been. Nobody wants to be disturbed during a sweet dream.”

    Flags, religions, and polititians are there simply to exploit the weaknesses inherent in people. Most are not strong enough, not courageous enough to move away from the crowd. Toni Smith receives a harsh response from not only those who wrap themselves in the security blanket of the red white and blue, but also those who are put to shame by her, those who know they will never be the quality of individual that she is. They are put to shame because Toni Smith is right.

    Mike Casner
    Keene NH runcaz@yahoo.com

  17. janna says:

    Funny that all those who are so strongly opposed to Toni’s actions forget that one of the things they love about what the flag stands for is freedom, which includes freedom of speech. Hypocrisy obviously runs deep in the rhetoric of democracy and freedom when we cannot even respect each other’s civil rights. If those who don’t agree with her just stopped to listen to themselves, they would realize they are playing into the very thing they are accusing her of. Opposition to one’s freedom of speech is what is “un-American” NOT the exercise of that freedom, no matter what one’s opinion is. PLUS, the sister knows her history. We cannot ignore the fact that this country was built with the blood of Native Americans and African slaves. Wake up and smell the truth…

  18. Lisa says:

    Let Toni do what she wants. She has pesonal reasons for doing this…let her. It’s freedom of speech. You have the right TO remain silence….you have the right NOT to remain silent.
    I’m a Mville Student…let it be. I respect the flag especially after 9/11….but the flag is a symbol, and it’s open to people interpreting it differently then others look at it.

    Lisa H

  19. Daniel says:

    Every time I turn around there’s always some stupid freak doing something to show there individualism with a useless protest..but this stupid B&%H takes the cake..makes want to puke..if she doesn’t like it here in the USA ..send her ass to IRAQ. all things to turn her back on she should be ashamed of her self…”think before you act” because it will follow you for the rest of your life…Later…

  20. beth says:

    Why are so many threatened by her one quiet action? A young girl who is willing to think for herself causes such a vehement reaction. Why the hatred and the name calling? Those who berate her should be ashamed of themselves. I’m more afraid of the sheep who follow without question, than those who have the bravery to ask if this is right. Should we all think the same and rally behind that flag for no other reason that someone told you to? If that’s the case, then we are not a democracy; that’s fascism.

    No one has any business sending our kids off to war unless they are willing to pick up a gun and go fight themselves. To pay the consequences personally. If you are willing to do that, then the war must be worthwhile. Otherwise and especially, honor those who quietly disagree.

  21. casey says:

    toni you dont seem to be much of a basketball player and even less of a american. go the hell to the middle east. live there and protest sadam or some other ass. see what they do to you fool. im sure the government is paying your way to that fine college you attend. is your coach from the usa? to hell with toni smith and to hell with manhattenville “college”. duh

  22. david sun says:

    Another person spouting off things she knows nothing about. When she turns her back on the flag, she turns her back on all the people who’ve fought and died for our freedom. She knows she’s going to get her 15 minutes of fame, make it 14 minutes now, and she knows she can pull this little stunt because the US won’t haul people into a dark dungeon who are so blatantly against the country. If she did this in the Middle East or China, no one would ever see her again.

  23. Blood says:

    Hey, Marine stationed in the Persian Gulf,
    What you should be sick about is how your Supreme Court appointed president is VIOLATING the constitution. He’s going against the war powers act and your oath, your OATH, remember, is to uphold the constititution from enemies abroad and within.
    I will remain loyal to my sworn pledge to uphold the U.S. Constitution, no matter what. If I consider a civilian or military order or operation to be contradictory to the Constitution, I will not follow the order and will do whatever is in my power to stop the unconstitutional operation.”
    Cheney and Uncle Tom Colin Powell, the traitors that they are, should be in prison for these such violations. When Bush Sr. pissed all over the constitution with his illegal wars, they went along. Most of the joint Chiefs of Staff had the guts to stand up to them to tell them to remember their oaths. But internal pressure made them cave. Now, his worthless son is again violating the constitution and expects his nation to back him.
    And if you think this is some “librul, commie idea”, guess again. 90% of Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans are against this illegal, bullying, self-serving war.
    SCREW Bush, he’s not my president and there’s no way we should be fighting this war putting soldiers at risk for the wrong reasons.

  24. Steve says:

    So many responses, so few accurate ones, what to do? Toni does have the right to her opinion, as do all of the people who feel her protest is misguided at best. Several people have applauded her for “thinking for herself”. It seems strange that this woman, who is thinking for herself, is spewing the same nonsense as Ted Kennedy, George Clooney, Tom Daschle, Danny Glover, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson…should I continue? She is not thinking for herself. She is regurgitating the vitriolic vomit of the Far Left. She has accepted the distorted view of our society as the truth and has decided to protest our country’s policies. It is her right to protest, just as it is her right to be misinformed and wrong. The same can be said of several posters in this forum who have bad-mouthed President Bush and his staff. I don’t agree with some of Bush’s policies. I think he’s making some concessions to the Left he doesn’t need to make. I do agree with the 3 studies of the 2000 Florida counts, 2 of which were conducted by Democratically-sponsored agencies and the majority of Democrats polled after September 11th. They found that Bush won the election and that most voters believe that Gore would not have handled the terrorist attacks prudently. They do have history on their side. Clinton/Gore were in place in 1993 for the first attacks on the World Trade Center. The trail of evidence led directly to Osama bin Laden. The Sudan had him in custody, ready for extradition to the US and our pals decided he wasn’t a threat to our country. I should think that the families of the 3000+ victims of 9/11 may want to discuss the matter with Bill and Al.

  25. Christina says:

    I commend Toni for what she did. I agree with all of the comments she made also about what the flag stands for. As soon as people slapped red,white, and blue stickers on their cars after 9/11 they devalued the flag themselves. When I see the American flag hanging behind our sorry excuse for a president,it makes me so angry. Something that once meant something now represents greed and power. Somebody commented that Toni was brainwashed, but anyone who says that is brainwashed himself. The media is keeping you all ignorant and the pride in the country is now turning into ethnocentrism. It’s also very cowardly of people to say “If you don’t love our country, get out!” because those people are so scared of others who stand up and question the government that they’d prefer them to just leave. HOW PATHETIC! If you all are so proud and pro-America, then why aren’t you all on the front lines???!!!

  26. Sam Bronkawitz says:

    I’m curious…what do you think the flag once stood for? What with this brainwashed mind of mine and the thick layers of wool the media’s been pulling over my eyes, I’m just terrified that these pathetic, ignorant beliefs I’ve cowardly held onto all of these years are merely products of my ethnocentric patriotism.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I still don’t get it. If you support our country, you’re a mindless sheep. If you don’t, you’re a brilliant and free-thinking spirit. Please, someone tell me I’m not the only one who after repeatedly approaching this demented concept with logic and reason finds themselves on the brink of spontaneous combustion. It is Toni’s constitutional right to protest America, as it is my or anyone else’s right to protest Toni.

    I also find it hilarious that Toni’s protesting the very entity that funds her education. What she needs is a tub of ice cream and a Pocket Rocket…she’d be much better for it.


  27. Dan L. Alstott says:

    As a veteran of four years active military service in the Korean War, I support your position and your right of expression.

    I too am opposed to the George Bush war or any other such action unless we can absolutely justify it with proof instead of rhetoric.

    Stay the course.


  28. Shamus says:

    Toni Smith is nothing put a flag waver for the ill-informed. Sure a lot of people died to build up our flag. People have died to build up every country. She makes it sound like we’re all alone in this respect. Before we defeated the indians, they massacred each other for land. What’s the difference? Nothing, except for the fact that she decided to neglect this. To attack the United States now is below the belt. Freedom of speech regardless, there is such a thing as common sense and if she was prudent enough to realize this, she wouldn’t have made a fool of herself. The college she goes to is a product of this “unfair” nation and it’s “horrible” practices. Does she think that the terrorists are justifed? Every country in the world has blood on its hands. It’s easy to protest something you know nothing about.

  29. what would we do without flagz? says:

    Read what Shane said. The people he speaks against r a reazon y i wont salute any flag. Shane probably doez salute the flag, but i am ok with that. More people should think az naturally az he.

  30. what would we do w.out flagz? says:

    I mean read what ”MOE” said.

  31. X says: