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Cheers, Profanity, and Free Speech in College Sports

Howard M. Wasserman

Florida International University (FIU) - College of Law

August 9, 2004

In this essay, Professor Wasserman discusses the First Amendment implications of recent controversies over offensive and profane cheering speech at college sporting events. Use of offensive chants and signs by student fans has prompted several universities, most notably the University of Maryland, to consider establishing fan codes of conduct at stadiums, in the stated interest of protecting the sensibilities of unwilling captive listeners at the game, especially children. The First Amendment, particularly Cohen v. California and the protection accorded to the manner of communicating a message, renders such speech policies invalid at public university stadiums and arenas. Arenas are forums for what can be labeled "cheering speech," protected expression by fans about the game, the participants, and the surrounding circumstances.

This essay is part of a broader upcoming project on the free speech rights of fans at public sporting events and the link between free expression and professional sports in American society and popular culture.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 18

Keywords: Free speech, first amendment, colleges, sports

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Date posted: August 10, 2004  

Suggested Citation

Wasserman, Howard M., Cheers, Profanity, and Free Speech in College Sports (August 9, 2004). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=574165 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.574165

Contact Information

Howard M. Wasserman (Contact Author)
Florida International University (FIU) - College of Law ( email )
University Park, DB 2065
Miami, FL 33199
United States
305-348-7482 (Phone)
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