By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

City workers can’t criticize Olympics. Or maybe they can.

There’s much more to be learned about this, obviously, but right now it’s unclear whether Boston city employees can or can’t criticize the Olympics bid.

Michael Levenson reports in The Boston Globe that Mayor Marty Walsh “signed a formal agreement with the United States Olympic Committee that bans city employees from criticizing Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Games.”

But Walsh says it doesn’t matter because it’s a “boilerplate” document. Or something. “I believe in free speech,” he added.

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  1. Walsh violated his oath of office.

  2. Walsh may think this is like a software end user agreement you click “Agree” to without reading, but I doubt the USOC’s lawyers agree.

    What this clearly demonstrates, though, is the anti-democratic ideology of the Olympics. They really believe that, for the privilege of applying to be a host city, they can hijack the entire city apparatus, and substitute Olympic boosterism for City staff’s professional opinion. Rather than reflecting the will of the people, the City becomes the Olympics PR arm. It’s mind boggling.

  3. Cynthia Stead

    This is just not unusual. When I worked for the IRS I was told I could not attend a Boston rally with Reagan (post election) as it was a Hatch Act violation. When I worked for the state I was told I could not speak at town meeting about a project that would use Ch. 90 funds. Public employee speech is often abridged. Usually the excuse is that you might be mistaken for a spokesman or there might be an assumption that you were speaking in an official capacity – and a disclaimer is not enough.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Cynthia: My father worked for the federal government, and I still remember him freaking out when I put a McGovern sticker on my mother’s car. He was worried about what would happen if he had to drive it to work.

      What’s pernicious about the Olympics situation is that city employees are being told they can’t speak out about something that has nothing to do with city business. That is why the ACLU is saying it’s unconstitutional, and why Walsh is backtracking.

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