I've kept my mouth shut and my two cents to myself while the stormy blog posts and essays go back and forth regarding the recent T-shirt incident in Barcelona. The commentary, eloquent though it is, seems to miss the point. Waging a war back and forth over whether or not "politics" should be allowed in poker is wide of the mark by miles. Politics, if that's what you want to call it, is everywhere - tolerated in most places, encouraged in others, and repressed vehemently in still others. Politics is part of life.
Politics, when we separate the meaning of that word from its government context, is little more than expressing an opinion. That expression may come in many forms but is usually conveyed through speech or language but can also be espoused through painting, music, and other art forms. A slogan on a banner or even a T-shirt is a simple, often effective way of expressing an opinion. A "Declaration of Independence" or an "I Have a Dream" speech may be more formal ways of stating someone's opinion, someone's politics, but they serve the same purpose as a placard or a sign. Basically, announcing one's politics without fear of repression or reprisal, is a right that most people embrace. Unfortunately this freedom to speak our mind or announce our opinion is not universally embraced.
Oliver Busquet and Daniel Coleman, the two poker players in question who lit this fire in the first place, have been demonized for wearing T-shirts expressing a view on the Israeli/Palestinian problem at the final table of an event at a PokerStars sponsored tournament. The criticism ran the gamut from why display the slogans only at the final table to why wear them at all. The old saw that "there is no politics in poker" has been quoted over and over again as well as the repeated insistence that the sponsors of the tournament have the right to ban such displays. Rhetoric, pure unadulterated rhetoric!
Those two players and anyone else who cares to, has the right to express their opinion whenever or wherever they want. Period!
Keep in mind that we are talking here of opinions, not slander, not obscenities, not lies, not offensive language. These are opinions, perhaps held strongly, perhaps not. Regardless, no one has the right or authority to squelch anyone else's opinion in the free world. This does happen, of course, in counties that I do not consider part of the "free world." They shall remain nameless. If we start to censor opinions, even at poker tournaments, where will these "rules" take us next? Will we then ban expressions of religion? Types of clothing? Points of view that may disagree with whoever wields the power in a particular situation?
One of the blogs that addressed this issue recently (Victoria Coren's to be precise) intimated that maybe we should be more open about what gets talked about at poker tables. Maybe we should even encourage more intelligent, sincere expressions of feelings and opinions. Or maybe we should all just play cards!
In my opinion, and I'm OK with it being a minority opinion, maybe we should all mind our own business and let others speak their minds and express their views. No one has ever suffered from someone else's opinion. Many have from someone else's rules.
For a full airing of all points of view on this issue check out Wookies Poker Blog. It's all there including a post back to this article.