ESPN has fired Curt Schilling after the brash baseball commentator posted a grotesque meme demeaning and belittling transgender people. ESPN spokesperson Josh Krulewitz released this two-sentence statement:
"ESPN is an inclusive company. Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated."
This should not be a surprise to anyone. Schilling has dipped his toe in dangerous waters before, last year posting about comparisons between Muslims and Nazis. Schilling's latest post was seemingly daring ESPN to fire him. The post featured a large man in some kind of sex garb wearing a wig and high heels. While Schilling offered some bizarre explanation about not posting the post, and his wife and son yesterday made claims about the post being private and Schilling being a super nice guy at home, the evidence of Schilling's finger prints was overwhelming.
When I think about LGBT-inclusive entities in sports, ESPN is right there with Nike at the top of the list. The organization has worked with the community for over a decade, bringing sensitivity training to Bristol; hiring out LGBT public-facing personalities like LZ Granderson and Kate Fagan; supporting others who came out like Israel Gutierrez; building an inclusive space for trans employees like Christina Kahrl and Courtney Pollack; partnering with organizations like GLAAD to improve their messaging and inclusion; The list goes on and on.
To be clear, Schilling's offense was not having a political opinion, it was expressing himself with a Facebook share and a comment that was demeaning to an entire class of people under attack in our culture today. He could have offered a thoughtful perspective and, like his family has suggested, admitted a lack of understanding of issues. Instead, he used a disgusting display, followed up by blaming everyone who was offended and refusing to back down.
Sometimes it's not what you say, it's how you say it.
Personally, I couldn't be happier about this. I generally don't want people to lose their jobs over mistakes. I would never say Andrew Shaw should be fired by the Chicago Blackhawks for using a gay slur on the ice. Shaw showed contrition and regret over his mistake, accepting the backlash and penalty.
Schilling couldn't have been more of a jerk about it. And frankly, I'm thrilled for people like Kahrl, a trans baseball editor at ESPN, who knows she'll never have to work with Schilling ever again.
While people are throwing "The First Amendment" as a defense for Schilling's actions, the First Amendment protects speakers from only the government. ESPN is free to exercise its First Amendment rights as well.
Part of the First Amendment is also the freedom of association. ESPN has decided to not associate with Schilling anymore.