In the March 17, 2002 issue of The Sporting News I finally was able to read Toni Smith's side of her story. She told her story in her own words. I was impressed with her focus and ability to express her points. So often, those who take a stand against something embarass those who have similar views because they rail mindlessly against everything in a column of hate. At anti-war protests I've been to I've sat and listened to people who make little or no sense, broadcasting their general dislike for all kinds of things, diving into things like saving forests and wearing clothes made out of all natural fabrics. Try to stay on the point and stop gliding off on so many wacko tangents, people.

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. The war America will soon be entering in has reinforced my beliefs.

Toni Smith gained a little more than fifteen minutes of fame after she refused to face the American flag during the National Anthem. She is a senior at Manhattanville College who happens to play on the girl's basketball team at said university. She continues not to face the flag, drawing the ire of millions, especially American servicemen, some of which have loudly chanted for her to get out of the country if she thinks so little of the flag.

Toni Smith's message was personal and was never meant to gain as much media attention as it did. Yet she will not shy away from the attention and is glad to have gained a platform to speak from. She does not defend herself with excuses. She has something to say. She is not just one of those random attention getting people who has no idea what they are all about.

"Athletes and celebrities are the people who have enough social influence to make their opinions heard. Wouldn't it be a waste if their only jobs as national figures were to look good and reiterate popular opinions?"

Toni goes on to talk about how there is this national consensus that celebrities should keep their opinions to themselves. Yet, there is a double-edged sword. Mike Piazza is applauded as a patriot for his vocal support of the war effort. Anyone who doesn't support those views is labelled an idiot who should keep their mouth shut and not use their celebrity status to vocalize their views.

Sports, we are told, are not political. Toni Smith questions this point by reminding us that they are. Why is the "Star Spangled Banner" played before every game and why is everyone expected to bow their head and place their hand over their heart in a modern form of idol worship? Why don't we have this sort of thing when we go to the movies, standing up for the national anthem before the first reel rolls?

As American politics rolls closer and closer to a point where there is one point of view and almost no resistance, it is time for athletes and celebrities to step up. Since the opposition party in our government is so limp wristed it can't even figure out what it stands for, someone needs to step up to the plate. Do you want Mike Piazza or Toni Smith stepping up the the plate? I guess it depends on what kind of home run you want to hit. They both have valid points of view and they both have the right to express them.

More importantly, she isn't rushing to apologize like some, who are afraid for their careers.

I never thought I'd do this one, but this is my submission for tes's hero quest.

Oh, by the way, I'm a Mets fan.