Commentary: No winners in Al Jazeera vs. Booker, Texas

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramSeptember 7, 2011 

A Panhandle high school football game is making world news, and not because it was between Booker and Hooker.

On Friday, a foreign television crew dropped in at Booker's stadium to interview Fighting Kiowas fans about the anniversary of 9-11 and wound up getting a lesson in American freedom.

The reporter and school officials don't agree on every detail, but they do agree that the crew was denied interviews and told not to shoot video.

Yes, on public property.

Brazilian reporter Gabriel Elizondo wrote: "Ten miles. Sixteen kilometers. That's how deep I got into Texas before being asked to leave."

Did I mention that Elizondo is a reporter for the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news network?

Booker school Superintendent Mike Lee has responded to Elizondo's commentary at blogs.aljazeera.net, explaining that the news crew didn't ask permission in advance and that he did not want fans interviewed or video shot at a "public event on public property."

Look, I'm not sure how they teach the First Amendment in Booker. But as long as nobody's interrupting the game, a peaceful conversation in a public place should not be Lee's business.

Forget all that now.

Elizondo ruined his own case by unfairly blaming Booker for being fearful and bigoted, just because he couldn't do interviews.

Elizondo is crisscrossing America to report on the "9-11 Decade." When he asked Lee about 9-11, Lee replied that it was "rotten what they did."

But in his report, Elizondo added that he was not sure whether Lee "was calling me rotten, the terrorists rotten, Al Jazeera rotten, or all of the above."

The report also makes snide comments about the "Drive Friendly" and "Welcome to Booker" signs.

At the end, Elizondo went out of his way to note that the only sign in town mentioning 9-11 is: "Gun Show -- Sept. 10-11 -- Legion Hall."

"I am not welcome here," he concluded.

Mayor Jim Riggs said Tuesday that he wishes Al Jazeera had given Booker more of a chance.

"There probably are people here who are a little bit prejudiced," he said. "But there are more people here who want everyone treated with respect. That's what America is all about. We can treat our guests fairly."

Al Jazeera left out the most important part of any game story.

Booker beat Hooker, 46-27.

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