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ESPN's Jemele Hill's poorly considered, poorly argued defense of David Tyree

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On ESPN.com yesterday, columnist Jemele Hill said she accepts and respects David Tyree for being so active and vocal in his belief that gay people should be treated as second-class citizens.

The column is a sorry excuse for the quality we've come to expect from ESPN. Not just because as a black woman she should know better than to defend bigotry, and not just because she used her platform to tell her readers that anyone who stands up for hateful beliefs should be respected. Sure, those two things are pretty bad. But the shameful part of Hill’s piece is that, in her quest to lift up this bigoted man, she used even more faulty logic and poorly realized arguments than Tyree did in his original anti-equality video.

On ESPN.com yesterday, columnist Jemele Hill said she accepts and respects David Tyree for being so active and vocal in his belief that gay people should be treated as second-class citizens.

The column is a sorry excuse for the quality we've come to expect from ESPN. Not just because as a black woman she should know better than to defend bigotry, and not just because she used her platform to tell her readers that anyone who stands up for hateful beliefs should be respected. Sure, those two things are pretty bad. But the shameful part of Hill’s piece is that, in her quest to lift up this bigoted man, she used even more faulty logic and poorly realized arguments than Tyree did in his original anti-equality video.

I understand these absurd, over-the-top columns get attention, but at some point intellectual integrity should come into play; It simply didn’t in Hill’s column.

I won’t rehash the details of her column here; You can read them at ESPN.com. Suffice it to say, she says we should all respect people like David Tyree, and I guess Fred Phelps too, because he so fervently sticks to his beliefs that God hates gay people. Heck, I’m sure her office is covered with posters of Jefferson Davis for sticking by what he believes despite a war erupting around him!

Hill asserts that Tyree has the right to say whatever he wants. First Amendment! First Amendment! The thing is, no one disagrees with that. I haven’t heard anyone say he should be arrested for his comments. I haven’t heard anyone say he’s overstepped the law. No one has argued Tyree doesn’t have the First Amendment right to say he thinks gay people should be treated as second-class citizens, and even GLAAD would defend his right to say it.

But we hear this poor excuse for a Constitutional defense trotted out every time someone gets attacked for “just speaking their mind.”

Hill clearly doesn’t understand the First Amendment. So here’s a little civics lesson I learned in seventh grade. The First Amendment protects us from the government taking action against us for our speech; It doesn’t protect anyone from other Americans speaking their mind.

Hill seems to imply that because Tyree has “the right” to say whatever he wants that I can’t say what I want. I can’t attack him for it because “he has the right!”

In our free marketplace of ideas (again, seventh-grade stuff), you’re free to say whatever you want (short of the infamous yelling “fire” in a crowded theater). But as soon as you say it, you open yourself to criticism and praise for your statements. Tim Hardaway had every right to say, “I hate gay people;” And the NBA had every right to smack him down when he did. Jimmy the Greek had every right to say, “The black is a better athlete,” and CBS had every right to fire him.

Well Ms. Hill, I have every right to attack Tyree’s over-stated, unintelligent points. I have every right to provide a response to your poorly written column. And I have every right to point out that Tyree is a hateful homophobe.

Yeah, I said it. Tyree is homophobic. That’s another of Hill’s poorly argued defenses of him: Just because he thinks gay people are second-class citizens doesn’t mean he’s homophobic!

You have to be kidding me.

I wonder how Hill would define someone in the 1960s who believed interracial marriage should remain illegal. “Oh, he’s not racist; He just doesn’t think two people of different races should be able to marry!”

Or how about the people just a couple years ago who refused to vote for Barack Obama because he’s black? “Oh they’re not racist either; They just don’t think a black person shouldn't be running the country.”

Better yet, how about the sports fan who doesn’t think a black woman should be able to step foot in the ESPN offices, let alone actually have a voice there. “Oh he’s not racist. Or sexist. He just wants white men to deliver his sports news. That’s all!”

Tyree is a homophobe, Ms. Hill. He called my life “unfulfilled” and “purposeless.” He called me an anarchist. He said my marriage is “evil.” All because I’m gay and feel I deserve to be treated equally under the law. If that doesn’t qualify him as a homophobe, what on earth does?

Finally, Hill asserts we should respect Tyree for his incredible fortitude in sticking to his anti-equality position despite all of the criticism! It shows what a strong guy he is, she argues.

To Hill and so many others, the fight for gay equality is a side show not based on what people deserve, but simply what they want. If Hill thought that it was our birth right as Americans to be treated equally under the law, she would see that his position isn’t respectable no matter how old the book is that forms his entire belief system. Sure, she may defend his “right” to say it (again, not that anyone is questioning that). I could even see her somehow bizarrely claiming that Tyree isn’t homophobic. But we should respect him for believing so strongly that my partner of 8 years and I shouldn’t have the same rights that Brittany Spears had when she got married to someone on a whim? Bizarre.

Next to the posters of Jefferson Davis in her office, I’m sure Hill flies a Confederate flag; It doesn’t get more respectable than to wage a war over your beliefs that black people should be slaves! Right, Ms. Hill? Right?

Wrong. Of course, wrong.

In his anti-gay video, Tyree talks about how there is right and wrong. The reason Tyree has gotten so much criticism is the same reason Hill doesn’t celebrate February 4 every year (the date the Confederacy was formed). It’s because Tyree is on the wrong side of American rights.

Yes, Tyree has the right to say whatever he wants. Thankfully we live in a country where he does. And all of my friends and I have the equal right to attack him for it. But to say that we should respect and accept Tyree for his beliefs is nearly as offensive as his anti-equality position. You’d think someone who 100 years ago couldn’t vote and 200 years ago couldn’t own property would know better.