Chicago Sun-Times columnist admits he "hit a wasp's nest" with his motorcyclists-as-organ-donors comments
September 29, 2004 – Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg upset a lot of motorcyclists nationwide last week when he characterized riders as organ donors in a column headlined "Hop on a motorcycle, fill out your donor card."
The AMA responded with an e-mail directly to Steinberg, asking for a retraction. And when he refused, we publicized his column on this website, with an opportunity for you to voice your opinions.
Soon, our story was being quoted on other websites, in motorcycling forums and on Speed Channel's "Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain." And your e-mails were flooding the Sun-Times computer system.
By the end of last week, Steinberg had contacted us, saying that he hadn't realized that there was an American Motorcyclist Association, and asking us to give him an education on this issue.
The result? Here's an item that was part of Steinberg's column this morning:
"Every once in a while, in my endearing, oblivious fashion, I swing my journalistic bat and hit a wasp's nest. That was sure the case last week, in my musing on motorcycles and organ donations. It turns out that this is a huge issue with bikers, who seem to divide the world into those who ride and the clueless idiots veering unexpectedly into their lanes. Guess which side I ended up on?
"Nor are their feelings of persecution without substance -- both California and New Mexico this year considered laws that, unbelievable as it sounds, would have forced motorcyclists who were killed in crashes and weren't wearing helmets to donate their organs for transplant, whether they or their families wanted to or not, claiming the lack of a helmet constituted a kind of consent to have their organs harvested.
"As much as I believe that everybody should sign up to be an organ donor -- I do and have -- it has to be voluntary. We don't want the government seizing people's organs against their will."
That's exactly how the AMA felt when we joined with other motorcyclists to defeat those proposals in New Mexico and California.
You sent your message. And it's clear that message was heard.