Dishing on free speech, the NFL and Hollywood

three images of consisting University of Chicago building, NFL  logo, and Hollywood signUniversities and Free Speech – Kudos to the University of Chicago for taking what I believe is the correct position on a university’s role in society and free speech. The University issued a written statement to its students letting them know where it stands with respect to the ongoing campus culture wars: “Our commitment to academic freedom means we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” When President Robert Zimmer was asked why the University was associated with so many Nobel Prize winners (90+, including this year’s win by behavioral economist Richard Thaler), his response was that there is a campus culture committed to “discourse, argument and lack of deference.” How terrific is it that at least one University President has the courage to state what I believe is the obvious – that in a world permeated with sexual harassment and violence, racial inequality, nuclear threats, and national and international terrorism, we cannot be afraid to have honest discourse to help find solutions so that we do not have to resort to force.

NFL – Is kneeling – or fighting about kneeling – the best that NFL owners and players can do to combat racial inequality? There can be no dispute that racial disparity exists in this country, but kneeling isn’t going to solve the problem; action and opportunity are. Shame on both the team owners (who have greatly profited from young black athletes in the NFL) and the players (who have greatly profited from playing in the NFL) for not doing more – or doing anything – to help solve this problem together. As a young lawyer, I worked in a civil rights firm (where I was the only white employee) and brought discrimination claims on behalf of black and Hispanic clients. I worked there for significantly less money than I could have made at a corporate law firm, but I wanted to do my part to help bridge the racial gap (which I feel is the most critical issue facing this country). Today, our firm is helping this cause by volunteering time to mentor Wyandanch High School students interested in pursuing legal careers, providing them with some practical skills and job options after graduation. While these are small gestures, I think that access to justice and jobs helps the cause a lot more than kneeling (or arguing about kneeling) does. It’s time for the players and owners to put their money where their “knees” are and help find serious solutions to these disparities.

Hollywood – What a bunch of phonies. I think some actors believe that if they play a highly moral character in a movie, they somehow become that character and have earned the right to preach to us about the ills of society. Meanwhile, in the real world, where they had a chance to use their stature and money to really make an impact on people’s lives, countless hypocrites instead chose to perpetuate what is in my opinion one of the biggest coverups relating to the sexual exploitation of young girls, women, men, and boys in the history of this country, all because they didn’t want to get on Harvey Weinstein’s (and other powerful moguls’) bad side. Hopefully capitalism will fix this issue, and folks will stop paying to support these cowards.

AROUND TOWN

Last week was a busy one here at CMM

Last Tuesday, it was good to catch up with my friend and client Pam D’Apuzzo,President of RR Health Strategies. For those of you who don’t know Pam, she is one of the most talented professionals I know, and the work she has done growing her company over the past five years is astounding. I love spending time with her as the conversation always involves all my favorite subjects – food, business, family, and more food!

On Wednesday, I spent some time in the morning on air with Jay Oliverhost of Long Island News Radio, 103.9I always enjoy my time with Jay, and we cover many topics. The biggest takeaway from this segment is my belief that term limits are necessary to help prevent political corruption.

Also on Wednesday, I spent the afternoon with Wyandanch High School students discussing different opportunities that exist in law. I have to say, it is really difficult for me to understand how these kids have a fair chance at competing with other Long Island students when their learning environment is filled with metal detectors and police presence. What message are we sending them? Compare that to their neighbor, Half Hollow Hills, whose learning environment is full of technology, engineering, and support. It’s so hard to reconcile the inequities that arise based on what side of an imaginary line a student is on, particularly as it can so powerfully impact their education and future.

On Friday, I attended UCP of Long Island’s annual black-tie gala (I proudly serve on the UCP Board of Directors). This year they honored Bridgehampton National Bank, and CEO Kevin O’Connor accepted the awardDoug Geed of News 12 emceed the evening, and while both Doug and Kevin did a wonderful job with their speeches, it was clearly the children who stole the show, particularly when they performed for Kevin on their ukuleles. Not a dry eye in the house after that one…

On Saturday, I saw the show Gypsy at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. For those of you who have not been to the theater, I cannot recommend it highly enough. The tickets are reasonably priced, the talent is amazing, there is a bar in the lobby (and you can take your drinks into the show), and there is ample parking (did I mention there is a bar?). As a special and unexpected treat that night, my colleague Joe Vozza’s daughter Gianna was in the play as the Balloon Girl – well done!

Saturday night was capped off with dinner at, where else, Maroni, where we were joined by my partner Patrick McCormick and his lovely wife, Elaine. It was a terrific dining experience, although I am still a little in shock from the amount of food Pat is able to consume. God Bless…

And finally, it wouldn’t be Sunday without pasta! Although my grandmother is alive and well at 97, she has already achieved immortality through the Sunday dinner recipes she has handed down to me and my sisters. I can’t divulge the trade secrets, but can report that her sauce (which Grandma calls gravy) and meatballs are simply the best. Now, if the Jets could just remember that a football game has four quarters instead of three, that’s what I’d call a perfect Sunday.

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