Nothing churns a social media whirlpool like accusations of rampant political correctness and misguided views on the First Amendment’s free speech protections. This past week, we got a couple more cases for those files.
Pitcher-turned-baseball analyst Curt Schilling earned his termination from ESPN on Wednesday by sharing an anti-transgender message on Facebook; the New York Daily News reported that Schilling also commented: “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designated for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”
Schilling was referencing North Carolina’s new law that sets out mandates on which public restrooms transgender people can use. Later, in a Twitter exchange with L.A. Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy, Schilling referred to transgender people as “perverts” and “scum.” According to the Daily News report, McCarthy responded: “Curt we’re talking about human beings with emotions and a desire to be accepted in normal society. Lumping them in w/ molesters and abusers is offensive to not only them but to a reasonable argument.”
Schilling is certainly entitled to his opinion, and it is one shared by many people. ESPN also is within bounds to sever ties with him over his speech because the First Amendment protects citizens from the government taking action against them over what they say; employers have the right to protect their image and profitability.
If this case sounds familiar, it is much like what happened when “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson’s comments about homosexuals brought a brief suspension from A&E, the network that carries the show. The difference: A&E kept Robertson on the payroll because he brings in more dollars than A&E pays out to him, while Schilling can be replaced with just about any former baseball player and no one will know the difference.
Also last week, Chicago Blackhawks player Andrew Shaw received a one-game suspension and a $5,000 fine for using a gay slur in berating a game official. The term is one used all too frequently as a way to label someone as inferior or weak. It’s just plain hateful.
Chris Hine, who covers the Blackhawks for the Chicago Tribune, recently came out as gay in a column about improper questions posed to a player by an NFL coach. Hine met with Shaw after the incident and came away believing Shaw is not a homophobe but rather a product of the locker room environment. He wrote that the slur Shaw used “is the word gay men fear and despise the most.”
“When you’re closeted and thinking about coming out, you have nightmares about friends or family members using that word and making you feel like an outcast. … Now put yourself in the shoes of a closeted gay athlete,” Hine wrote. “That word is why gay athletes everywhere hide their sexual identity and often live lives of torment. It’s why some contemplate suicide and develop emotional and psychological issues they might never rectify.”
The concept of political correctness has become a piñata that too many people are lining up, stick in hand, to whack. Efforts to tone down rhetoric or cease the use of slurs or unfounded stereotypes often are met with complaints that as a nation, we are somehow diminished by not using loaded language. To be certain, there are some people who are way too easily offended and put too much effort into their personal victimhood. But overall, people just want to be treated with dignity.
If that sounds familiar, it’s what the Golden Rule is all about.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.