Chris Anderson and the future of the NFL

Chris Anderson and the future of the NFL

February 12th, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

Chris Anderson

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

Chris Anderson was gay when he ran for Chattanooga city councilman, and he's still gay today.

If residents of District 7 didn't like that about him then, and that's their right, they should have voted for someone else.

Anderson said publicly as early as September 2012, before the campaign in early 2013, that he is gay, although he said he's been open about his sexual preference for years.

Now, residents of his district want to recall him because of what they say is his job performance. Many didn't like his introduction of the idea of benefits for domestic partners of city employees -- and there are legitimate reasons for that dislike -- but that doesn't rise to the need of a recall.

Other residents say Anderson is not representing their interests well, and that's a gripe to which he should pay attention, but it's not one worthy of a recall.

He has been in office for less than a year, after all.

But if the recall petition has been filed properly when the Hamilton County Election Commission reviews it Thursday, that body will have little choice but to let the drive advance to the signature stage.

The filers will then have 75 days to collect the proper number of signatures -- 15 percent of registered voters in the district, about 1,800 -- to get the recall on an upcoming ballot.

With an up or down vote, Anderson could disappear like that. Poof!

Is that how vulnerable our elected officials should be? Certainly, they should be answerable to the public that elected them, but should one issue be the broom that sweeps them away?

What if residents don't like District 1 Councilman Chip Henderson's vote, should there be one, involving the Hillocks Farm development along Highway 153 in Hixson? How about if Missionary Ridge residents take exception to a vote by District 9 Councilman Yusuf Hakeem that seems to favor his constituents living anywhere but the Ridge?

Short of perpetrating illegal activities, elected officials should at least get the benefit of their term in office to make their case. If, at the end of that term, the balance weighs against them, voters can -- and should -- exercise their right to elect another person.

What's being done to Anderson is all legal and above board, but that doesn't make it right.

His attorney, Stuart James, in a letter to the Election Commission, says something's afoot, and it sounds a lot like discrimination.

In the letter, he says the recall petition is unconstitutional because it uses state mechanisms to achieve a discriminatory purpose. In other words, James said in a phone conversation Tuesday, if the real motivation behind the petition to a government entity -- the Election Commission -- is because Anderson is gay, that's illegal.

The petition, he said, "doesn't give a reason" for Anderson's removal. But, he said, "gays are a protected class now. They can't be discriminated against."

Citing in the letter inflammatory comments by residents about what they perceive as the councilman's agenda to boost homosexuality, James likened the recall petition to the recall of black elected officials elsewhere in the 1960s because of their skin color.

The letter also cited that the petition mentioned the organization Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency as an entity to contact or email completed petitions when, in fact, the CGAT had not given permission for such contact.

"I knew when I ran for public office that I would have to make decisions that were politically difficult," Anderson said in an email to Times Free Press reporter Joy Lukachick for a story last month. "If [voters] want to recall me over the equal rights of the public servants that work so hard for the City of Chattanooga, bring it on."

One wonders if this is what University of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam will face in the NFL next year. The All-American, who is expected to be a high-round draft choice in the NFL draft in May, said in an interview with ESPN's "Outside the Lines" on Sunday that he is gay.

"I understand how big this is," he said. "It's a big deal. No one has done this before. And it's kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be ... I want to be a football player in the NFL."

Don't like that he's gay? Fine. But, until he proves he can't do his job, let him try.