UB’s School of Law professor Helen Drew gives keynote speech for the James Otis Lecture

Helen “Nellie” Drew.

The UB School of Law's Helen “Nellie” Drew presented the keynote address at the Six Annual James Otis Lecture on Oct. 3 in downtown Buffalo.

Release Date: October 5, 2018 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. – University at Buffalo School of Law Teaching Faculty Helen “Nellie” Drew told high school students that freedom of expression is protected by the First Amendment as part of her keynote speech for the Sixth Annual James Otis Lecture Wednesday at the Robert H. Jackson Courthouse in downtown Buffalo.

Drew, an expert in sports law who is frequently quoted by regional and national media on such issues as discipline of professional athletes, drug testing in sports and Title IX, spoke on “Freedom of Expression: ‘Just Do It’?” Her presentation focused on former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem.

Drew quoted Justice Robert H. Jackson in the U.S. Supreme Court case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette:  “But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.”

The Otis Lecture is sponsored by the American Board of Trial Advocates to celebrate Constitution Day. The audience was a group of high school students interested in legal issues surrounding today’s professional and amateur athletes. The NFL’s continuing struggle with the public relations ramifications of the protest of the national anthem initiated by Colin Kaepernick provided a compelling current example of the significance of the First Amendment and the Supreme Court’s role in upholding personal freedoms.

The Otis Lecture was hosted by U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny. The event was organized by Michael F. Perley of Hurwitz and Fine, supported by the Robert H. Jackson Center and co-founded by Gregory L. Peterson of Phillips Lytle law firm.

Buffalo News sports reporter Jay Skurski also presented on “Professional Athletes and Social Commentary.”

The Otis Lecture provides high school students with an opportunity to hear firsthand from lawyers and judges about the implementation of the constitutional values upheld by Judge Jackson, who was from Jamestown.

The speakers and guests met during a luncheon to discuss freedom of expression and other issues covered in the morning presentations.

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