Disc Golf Etiquette

I really don’t think this is profiling.

I really don’t think this is profiling:


The way I understand it, this was not a case of profiling. If it were profiling, the officer would have stopped the driver because he knew he was a disc golfer or searched his vehicle with no other probable cause than he was a disc golfer.

It appears that the officer had a reason to perform the traffic stop. The driver seemed to be driving without his headlights on at night. No one is claiming he was not justifiably stopped, right?

From what I’ve gathered, an officer is within his or her rights to start a conversation with the subject of a traffic stop after completing the act for which the subject was stopped. The subject is within his or her rights to not converse with the officer.

From the officer’s reaction to being informed of the recording, he seemed confidant he was following his training and the law regarding questioning the subject of a traffic stop.

To be clear, part of me feels this way. I wrote this feeling this way. Several non-disc golf people that I consider to be very conscious of this type violation in other situations identified with this line of thinking. I want us to be aware of how others see us. Of course a disc golfer is going to feel offended by this video. But how do others see the video. And how might some of the comments following the video affect their opinions? 

I think that if we look at the situation with different facts, analogous facts, the officer’s behavior is not only justified but exactly what we want from our police officers.

Same situation but different:

Imagine the officer stops a car for driving without the headlights on in the early evening. As he is approaching the car, he sees several fishing poles and gear in the back of the car. The officer frequently goes fishing and almost always does so with a couple beers in the cooler.

The officer issues a warning because the lights work, it was just early dusk, but thinks to himself, as I am sure he is trained to do, “I wonder if the lights were off because he is intoxicated. Maybe I should talk to him some more to see if he is good to drive?”

The officer casually asks where the driver had been fishing and if he does it often. He follows up with what seems like a logical question to me, “Fishermen frequently have a drink while on the lake. How about you?”

Was the fisherman profiled? I don’t think so. From my experience and love of fishing, it is quite reasonable to think  someone who may have spent the day fishing may have also spent it drinking. Wouldn’t this be the same with Surfing, Snowboarding, Mountain Biking, and a host of other recreational activities that are often enjoyed with a buzz?

I am certain the officer is trained to ask leading questions and to trick the subject into giving him or herself away. I am sure they are trained to look for particular mannerisms and specific body language that might indicate someone is intoxicated or lying.

The officer was not trying to trick a disc golfer into confessing to a crime. The officer was trying to trick a potentially intoxicated and deadly driver into giving him or herself away in the hopes of saving lives. That is what a traffic stop is about right, saving lives?

This kind of logic is easy to fall into. This analogy was easy for me to come up with and I had several other variations. It resonated well with the non-disc golfers I spoke to. Analogies, comparisons, and syllogisms are an easy way to cheat, to not think about the individual or individual situation.

I have this weakness about people that I got from my mother. I want to believe the best in folks. I trust people early. She once lent a stranger my gas powered hedge trimmers – we never saw them again. Overall, I am glad I am optimistic about people though I have been burned a lot.

I want to believe the officer engaged in over zealous pursuit of what he thought was right. I am probably being too generous. I think the issue is more complicated than many think. Not every golfer smokes. Not every police officer intentionally wants to infringe on your rights, maybe not even this one.

The driver was obviously intelligent, aware, informed, and most importantly, respectful.

Exactly what should have happened, happened. A police officer stopped a driver justifiably. He warned the driver. He explored the possibility that the driver was intoxicated.  Driver responded perfectly and finished the day with possibly the best video clip ever. Officer recognized he was out-matched and moved on. Wow, I love living in America most of the time.

Thanks Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

Thanks Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

My take away is different. I think the problem is this being posted on Facebook feeds every where as an example of profiling, as an example of disc golfers getting a bad rap.

We have to understand why we sometimes have a bad reputation and through our understanding and love of the game change minds.

I have seen some comments relating this to Ferguson, Missouri and Trayvon Martin – “I think in light of current affairs it is not out of the ordinary to react like this….. ” one Facebook user stated.

That is just ridiculous. I know us counter-culture disc golfers like to feel oppressed but this is taking it way too far. The officer did his duty. The driver knew his rights. Everyone went home to dinner. This only belittles the real tragedy of those other situations and displays how out of touch we can be.

I am offended with some of the comparisons to other more serious infractions. I am also cognizant that even a small infraction might lead to a larger one. No infractions would be best but we should at least acknowledge the difference in scale. 

In many ways, this situation should be celebrated. Assuming the worst of the officer, we still live in a society with far more just laws and an informed and aware citizen can assert his or her rights and resist. The officer’s supervisor has apologized and a police officer friend assured me this means he has been reprimanded.

And as I have from the beginning, I am an advocate for owning the image of disc golf and disc golfers.

The Facebook quote was used because it was the most professional comment that would convey my point. The Youtube comments were too unpleasant to use. The point is certainly valid and I appreciate the respectful way the San Francisco golfer phrased his or her statement.

Sure the cop may have been a bit of a douche flaunting his power a little too much. But I know managers, cooks and disc golf TD’s who do that too – “No soup for you.” This lack of consideration for someone else happens everyday to everyone but this is not profiling.

There are many points of view and reality looks different from every one. Intelligent people can think differently than other intelligent people. Thanks to all the people that interacted with me on all the different social media sites. There is a lot of passion out there for disc golf and even more opinions about what is best for the sport. This was a fun way to spend a Friday night.

I like to stir the pot. I hope everyone thinks a little bit more carefully about these issues and how they express them. Hopefully many of you were able to read the post before the additions. Our thinking can evolve just like this post. I am certainly glad we have police officers. More than one has helped me out of a jamb. More than one has cut me some slack in key moments. Keep perspective.


2 replies »

  1. What offends me about the cop’s actions are the attempts to trick the driver into admitting an illegal act and consenting to an otherwise illegal search based on the driver’s assertion of his constitutional rights. If a citizen relies on his constitutional right not to answer the cop’s question, the cop should not try to trick the citizen by citing his refusal to answer as an admission. If a citizen tells a cop, “No you can’t search my home/car/bag/underwear, etc because you don’t have any probable cause and I have constitutional rights,” the cop should not try to coerce the citizen into consenting by telling him that his insistence on protecting his constitutional rights is an admission of guilt. Our constitutional rights aren’t going to really protect us if the cops are allowed to coerce and trick citizens by telling them that they have admitted guilt by refusing illegal searches. This is why I think the cop was reprimanded. It is no surprise that this blog would take a little more of a pro law & order view of the incident, but it surprised and disappointed me that you did not protest this part of the cop’s conduct.

    Disc Golfer, unlike race, sex or religion, is not a protected characteristic. It is not illegal to consider the discs in the trunk as a basis for asking a few more questions. But just having some discs in the trunk is not even close to enough for probable cause. As disc golfers, we can act as upset as we want about “profiling”, but what we really need to take from this is a wake up call. Now we know for sure what the cops are thinking. Glad to have this is an instructional video on how to use and protect your constitutional rights.

  2. I think you make several good points.

    I am offended that the officer tried to use the golfer’s assertion of his rights against him. One of my points is just that it did not work. The act of a search for unjust reasons was not performed. Justice won out; disc golfer looked good; officer looked bad. I wish we focused more on the positive.

    You stated you believe the officer was reprimanded because he turned the golfer’s assertion of his rights into an accusation. The officer was not reprimanded for profiling. I understand some of the laws about protected characteristics and as you put it, “it is not illegal to consider the discs in the trunk as a basis for asking a few more questions.”

    The prevailing response to the video was also offensive to me. The YouTube comments are filled with sentiments like “F- the police.” or “All cops are crooked” usually in far more offensive language. How is this any less an unfair stereotype as “all disc golfers smoke weed?” Particularly when it appears the golfer won the situation. Could we have been such bad winners that we ruin our advantage of rightness with vulgarity?

    I really appreciate your response and I am sorry you were disappointed. I do take that seriously. My point with this blog is not necessarily to assert my rightness, or to be right at all in fact, but to start a conversation about important topics.

    Part of me certainly feels the way I described above. Part of me is angered by the officer’s behavior. Part of me is proud that justice was served. All of me loves disc golf.

    Thanks for reading and contributing to the conversation

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