The bridge world is in an absolute tizzy over a protest by the world champion U.S. women’s team, which held up a sign during its victory celebration in Shanghai last month that read: “We did not vote for Bush.” Some bridge fans have accused the group of treason, and the United States Bridge Federation — whatever the hell that is — has decided that its authority trumps free speech, a value some people vaguely remember associating with America.

While there are many villains in this story, many of them predictably stodgy and full of themselves, the French players have heroically backed their American rivals, who, they said, “were doing only what women of the world have always tried to do when opposing the folly of men who have lost their perspective of reality.”

The suggested punishment for these poor women, who say they were only responding to questions about torture and Iraq from their international colleagues, is beyond unreasonable, as you can read below.

While there’s something inherently humorous about a brouhaha of this magnitude over a bridge tournament, there’s also something truly appalling about an organization that claims to represent the United States in the eyes of the world seeking retribution over an act of dissent — particularly one that holds the majority opinion.

As for us bridge players in the Truthdig offices, we stand with the French.

New York Times:

Three players — Hansa Narasimhan, JoAnna Stansby and Jill Meyers — have expressed regret that the action offended some people. The federation has proposed a settlement to [team captain Gail] Greenberg and the three other players, Jill Levin, Irina Levitina and [Debbie] Rosenberg, who have not made any mollifying statements.

It calls for a one-year suspension from federation events, including the World Bridge Olympiad next year in Beijing; a one-year probation after that suspension; 200 hours of community service “that furthers the interests of organized bridge”; and an apology drafted by the federation’s lawyer.

It would also require them to write a statement telling “who broached the idea of displaying the sign, when the idea was adopted, etc.”

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