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Who’s in the Wrong? Curt Schilling or ESPN?

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

Curt Schilling has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. The former Major League Baseball pitcher has served as a baseball analyst for ESPN since 2010, but this past Wednesday was fired from the network because of the “transphobic” comments that he posted on Facebook.

                                                                            Image via awfulannouncing.com

To give a little background, Schilling first entered the public eye in 1988 when he debuted for the Baltimore Orioles as a right-handed pitcher. The former second round pick then went on to play for the Astros, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox over the course of 19 seasons. During his career, Schilling won three World Series titles (including being named co-World Series MVP in 2001) and was a six-time All-Star. Arguably the most memorable part of his MLB tenure came in game 6 of the 2004 ALCS when he was on the Red Sox and pitched while having a torn tendon in his ankle causing blood to become visible through his sock, this game is now known as “the bloody sock game.”

Sadly these are all just memories and now the former MLB star is seen as transphobic by many. As stated earlier, Schilling was let go by ESPN because of a post he shared on Facebook, it was a picture of a man dressed as woman  and read, “Let him in! To the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!” He also added a comment that said, “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 designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.” This post was obviously a response to the recent uproar caused by North Carolina passing a law which restricted public restroom and locker-room use to individuals based on birth sex. In simpler terms, people are angry that a person who was born a man but has since changed genders to a woman, will still be forced to share a locker-room with men even though they are a woman now.

This actually is not the first time that Schilling has been disciplined by the network for comments he made about popular social issues. In August of 2015, Curt was suspended from ESPN after he posted a meme on twitter that read, “It’s said ONLY 5-10% of Muslims are extremists…In 1940, ONLY 7% of Germans were Nazis, how’d that go?”

With all of this said, is it wrong for ESPN to fire Mr. Schilling because he expresses his personal beliefs? Some will argue that a man is entitled to his own opinion and he should not have to keep it to himself when we live in a country that takes pride in their freedom and where the First Amendment of our Constitution protects our freedom of speech. This is true but technically in the First Amendment it states that only the government cannot restrict freedom of speech from anyone. So actually ESPN did not infringe on his First Amendment rights and legally has the power to fire him if they wish.

Many of the stories that have been written about Curt Schilling and his recent termination state that what he said and more importantly how he said it was wrong but also credit him with starting a public conversation concerning a very popular issue. In an article from The New York Post titled “Curt Schilling got fired for his Common Sense on Bathrooms,” author Linda Chavez is inspired from Schilling to ask an important question. She writes, “Are Americans being intimidated into accepting public behavior that many feel threatens them — namely, allowing biologically male or female individuals to use public bathrooms that are designated for the opposite sex?” While this was a pretty “raw” way of giving his opinion on this certain topic of discussion, it has caused more and more people to start talking about something that may be looked at as a “sensitive” subject.

The statement ESPN issued regarding Schilling’s dismissal reads as follows, “Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.” In an article titled “Curt Schilling’s Crassness, Not Politics, Got Him Fired From ESPN” from forbes.com, author Alex Reimer claims that the analyst was only fired because of the way he gave his opinion, not the opinion itself. He writes, “Curt Schilling isn’t being persecuted for his right-wing views. He’s being persecuted for the crass and crude ways he expresses them.” This is very interesting and makes one think that if he had stated his views in a more appropriate way would he have still been let go?

It is unclear whether the public will ever know if the former pitcher was let go because the network thought his views were offending or if it was only because of the way he said it. One thing that is clear is that Schilling will not be a part of ESPN’s staff moving forward. Following his termination, Schilling was quoted as saying, “I’m not transphobic, I’m not homophobic.” So the question I have now is that if a different analyst, who doesn’t have a history of being outspoken, would have said something similar (in a gentler way) would he or she have been fired?




Social media speeds up National Signing Day


Feb. 1 is one of the most exciting days in college football.  But why?  It is National Signing Day. This day is the day in which most high school recruits sign their National Letter of Intent to the schools they will attend in the fall. National Signing Day has also become a very big event with full-day coverage on ESPNU and all over the Internet. However, one tool that was used a lot this year was social media. Facebook and Twitter feeds “blew up” when signees were announced throughout the day. The cool thing about this new technology is every school had a different way to utilize social media to announce the signings.

Facebook was a popular medium for many schools including the University of Idaho. On National Signing Day, Idaho kept Facebook followers informed on each recruit who committed to become a Vandal in the fall. Beginning with their first commit, quarterback Andrew Williams from Elk Grove, Calif., they posted the names, positions, and hometowns for each new player along with a picture of an Idaho Vandal football helmet. Throughout the day, 24 players committed to play for the Idaho Vandals in the fall and each were given a spot on the official Facebook page of the Idaho Athletic Department, which is followed by over 14,000 members. This was an excellent way for Idaho to promote their new recruits as a mid-major program. Their followers were able to keep receive up-to-the-minute updates on the new Vandals commitments.

Twitter is another mode of communication athletic departments all over the nation utilized for announcing their new athletes. The University of Southern California was one of many of the programs that tweeted the news on National Signing Day. USC began the day by tweeting “#USCSigningDay is here! Text USCSIGN to 51234 to have each official announcement sent directly to your phone.” Not only were they using Twitter as a form of quick announcements, but also for Trojan fans to get even faster updates with a text service. USC’s tweets blew up feeds with announcements of every recruit who signed to become a Trojan this fall. There were also links to a profile of each recruit on the official USC Athletics website, and updates on head coach Lane Kiffin’s press conference he held at the end of the day that was telecasted on ESPNU. USC fans were also treated to up-to-the-minute experience via Twitter that many other programs also used.

Social media has made a lasting impact on sports on all levels but college sports have benefited greatly from it. Normally on Feb. 1, fans would have to wait until the evening edition of Sportscenter to get the news on their favorite team’s signings, at best; most fans would have to wait for the next morning’s local newspaper. Now fans can literally find out only seconds after the official fax comes into the athletic department’s office. As social media advances, information will become more instantaneous and more accessible to the everyday fan.