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Not all protests are equal. They vary in legitimacy, intent, message, medium and validity. There are protests involving our Flag and/or National Anthem that I believe are carried out respectfully and appropriately.  I take the general position that when a quiet, peaceful protester TELLS us his or her purpose is not disrespect, we should believe them until and unless proven otherwise. And I strongly feel that we often err when we evaluate the protests of others exclusively by what we think we would have or should have done in a similar circumstance. Loving our country and wanting to improve it can be expressed many ways.

And then there’s American hammer thrower Gwen Berry. I cannot and will not defend her, and I condemn and reject her actions unequivocally.

Berry won a spot on the U.S. Olympic team by placing third at the U.S. trials in Eugene, Oregon. Berry describes herself as an “activist athlete.”  OK. She says the anthem has “never spoken” for her.  Again, OK.  But when the anthem was played while she and the gold and silver medalists were on the podium, Berry turned away from the flag disdainfully, slouched, put a hand on one hip and draped an “activist athlete” t-shirt over her head.

She later said she felt “set up.”  The Anthem is played only once per evening at the Trials in Eugene, at a set time. On Saturday, that “set time” was just before the women’s hammer throw medals were presented.

Berry has a history, and in 2019 received a 12-month suspension from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee for a protest she conducted at Pan American Games in Peru. 

Again, I believe that when people tell us their intent, our default position should be to believe them.  But here was Berry’s intent, expressed in her own words.  “It was real disrespectful” and that that was her intent. Berry says she was “pissed.”

I am now, too. Ms. Berry.  Protests vary in legitimacy and presentation. Certainly on that second criterion at least, her protest failed.  And in this case Americans who say they are offended by her actions have every right to be.

In my view.

For now, Berry is headed to Tokyo.  She is no doubt aware that the Japanese Organizing Committee has made it clear that no political protests of any kind will be permitted at The Games.  That’s not an “American” concept. But the Olympics are not being held in America. It’s somebody else’s party.

If Berry plans to violate the “no protest” rule,” she should do the honorable thing and withdraw, giving the U.S. the option to promote the fourth place finisher at the Trials to the Olympic team.  It would be the right thing for the American team.

And she would at least salvage some integrity.

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Paul's Bio

I clearly have the attention span of your median fruit fly.Look! Airplane!

Sorry. I’m back.

It’s both a curse and a blessing. I’ve never bought this stuff about, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But I do think that a wide range of life experiences helps us grow as people, and helps us better relate to other people. I’ve been fortunate. And I am beyond grateful.

I show up on time. I go like hell. I’m a good listener. I hold myself accountable. I own my mistakes. And I have a natural and an insatiable curiosity. I’m never afraid to say, “I don’t know,” when I don’t. But then I try to find out.

The flip side is I’m a lousy ballroom dancer and my clothes sometimes fit me funny.

Stuff matters to me. I care. But while I take that stuff seriously, I try hard to never take myself seriously. As a result, I have sometimes been told, “Paul, it’s hard to tell when you’re serious and when you’re just having some fun. Which is it? Serious or fun?”

My answer is “yes.” But I think that is a legitimate criticism. I promise I’m going to work on that.

This has been the quickest and strangest half-century I’ve ever experienced. During that period, I’ve been afforded amazing opportunities in news and sports journalism across all platforms. I have taught wonderful students at the high school and collegiate level. Always, I learned more from them than they did from me. I’ve been a high school administrator. I spent ten seasons as a high school varsity football coach. I’ve been an advertising executive. I’ve hosted nationally syndicated television entertainment shows. In maybe the biggest honor I ever received, I was selected by NASA to be “Chet The Astronaut” for the “Land The Shuttle” simulator at Space Center Houston. (All I can say there, is “Do as I say, not as I do.” I put that thing in the Everglades more often than not.) Most recently, I just wrapped up a decade as a television news director, during which time our teams distinguished themselves in holding the powerful accountable, achieving both critical and ratings success.

What does all that mean? It means I am profoundly grateful. It also means I’m ready for “next.” So here we are. Radically Rational. It’s an idea I woke up with in 2017. I scribbled “Radically Rational” on a piece of notebook paper and used a magnet to stick it on our refrigerator. I saw it every day, and it just would not leave me alone.

I am second in charge at Radically Rational, LLC. My wife, Jo (also known as BB), is the president. Clearly, I have failed in my attempt to sleep my way to the top of this organization.

I hope you will learn that I’m loyal as a Labrador. But I will admit that this doggie can bite every now and then. My promise to you? I will show up on time. I will go like hell. I will listen to you earnestly and attentively. I will hold myself accountable. I will never be the least bit hesitant to say, “I don’t know,” when I don’t.

But then I’ll try to find out. Let’s do it.