Freedom of Speech Only Goes So Far…


Earlier this week, former Boston Red Sox pitcher and ESPN baseball commentator Curt Schilling offered up on his Facebook account an anti-transgender meme that has been making its rounds on the internet. In this particular meme (I’ll refrain from putting it on here because…UGH!), a rather unattractive man is wearing female clothing with the quotation beside him, “LET HIM IN! To the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!” Schilling shared the meme and, after a moment’s thought, deleted it, but not until after some people had screen-captured what he’d done.

To take it a step further, Schilling then stepped to his personal blog and tossed more gasoline on the raging fire. To give him credit, Schilling didn’t shy away from his personal beliefs (“There are things I have deeply held beliefs in, things that are core to who I am, things I am passionate about…whether you like that…or not is completely up to you.”), but he also had to know what was coming (more on this in a moment). That “other shoe” that Schilling might have been expecting came on Wednesday night when his employer, ESPN, terminated his contract, stating simply “ESPN is an inclusive company. Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.”

This wasn’t the first time that Schilling had stepped down this path. He was suspended after first Tweeting a meme that compared Muslims to the 1930s Nazis and, once ESPN kicked him off the broadcasts of the Little League World Series, followed up with a defensive post to another blogger that cost him the remainder of the Major League Baseball season (despite the factor that the post also defended the person who replaced him, former U. S. Olympic softball star Jessica Mendoza, against comments the blogger made). And this doesn’t count what other memes that Schilling shared over his Facebook feed.

Opinion over what Schilling has shared over his social media – this week and previously – takes an interesting course, one that requires some thought before making a statement. Plenty of people believe that Schilling was simply “saying what a lot of us are thinking. Apparently you can’t have an opinion at ESPN if that opinion isn’t a liberal opinion.” Others believe that Schilling will be quite happy on the unemployment line (probably not; Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012 and Schilling has sold off personal memorabilia to cover his expenses), saying, “Who would want to work for a company that would punish you for telling the truth?”

There are those that take the other side. “Schilling’s freedom to say what he wants hasn’t been denied; the government has not punished Schilling for what he said,” one person stated. “ESPN, however, has the right terminate his employment.”

That is the key point that many are missing with this situation. Schilling has all the “freedom of speech” rights in the world. The government cannot come after him and tell him “you can’t say that, Mr. Schilling, otherwise we will have to put you in jail.” It is one of the tenets of the First Amendment that allows everyone the right to speak out about…well, whatever they feel are the injustices of the world.


What many seem to forget, however, is that with the freedom of speech also comes the consequences of that freedom. For example, it is allowable to be able to burn the U. S. flag in protest (and to dispose of it, but that’s another story), encoded by the U. S. Supreme Court decision Texas v. Johnson (1989). While you can go ahead and burn the flag, you also have to accept the consequences of what might happen if you do that; in some cases, there may be a major league ass-kicking that comes along with it…not condoning physical violence, but it is a potential consequence. In Schilling’s case, he perfectly has the right to freedom of speech, what he forgot was the consequences part.

ESPN is a part of the massive Disney empire, which is the target of boycotts by one organization or another probably several times a day, 365 days per year. They try to minimize those issues by offending as few people as possible with the multitude of entertainment options that they provide (this is probably why they chuck the Disney girls who come up through their shows out before they go wild…look at the recent arrests of Debby Ryan and Kelli Berglund and let’s not even get into Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears). Thus, when someone continually chafes their audiences through poking the proverbial bear with their social media actions (as Schilling has done here and in the past), there comes a point when ESPN can decide enough is enough and remove the problem by dismissing the person.


It isn’t the first time that ESPN has done something along these lines. After a profanity-laced tirade at a roast for Mike and Mike hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic in which she went off on Golic’s alma mater Notre Dame by saying “Fuck Notre Dame, fuck Touchdown Jesus…and fuck Jesus,” former ESPN anchor Dana Jacobson was suspended for a week from the ESPN airwaves after irritating the Catholic League. Commentator Stephen A. Smith was suspended for his comments on domestic violence and SportsNation host Max Kellerman earned a suspension for his comments on the same matter. These barely even broach the suspensions and/or firings that have been handed out by ESPN in its history for “freedom of speech” violations.

Freedom of speech is a guaranteed right under the U. S. Constitution, but it is only guaranteed when you are speaking about the government. You can criticize the President, Congress, our military actions (or lack thereof), our political directions and decisions or an array of other things and there isn’t a thing that the government can do about it. They cannot come to the street corner where you might be ranting about these things, they cannot censor what you write on the subject and they certainly cannot arrest you for what you’ve said (within reason, of course…advocating for armed treason is one of those areas that they might have actionable cause).

When it comes into the private arena, however, the game completely changes. A company can (and does) look into your personal background, your social media (some companies nowadays ask for your social media names, at the minimum; state and federal legislatures are trying to prevent this) and monitor for where their employees might discuss the company. If this is a surprise to you, I’ve got a story that will emphasize the point for you from more than 15 years ago.

While working in the public sector, I worked with a gentleman who went into an online chatroom and discussed the company we worked for at great length. Needless to say, he wasn’t exactly glowing in what he said about our company as he detailed out what he felt were problems that the organization had. Although he thought he had an online ‘handle’ (screenname) that would prevent him from being identified (they could trace ISP addresses, even back then), the company found out who it was and terminated him immediately, despite his protests of “freedom of speech” (this is an old refrain).


How many of us would be willing to lay our social media accounts in front of our employer and let them have a look at what we think and say? How many of us would be able to pass the scrutiny of such an examination that our employer wouldn’t have to dismiss us out of protection of their organization? I’ll be the first to say I’m probably not perfect as to some of what I’ve written on social media; I wonder how many people who read this can be that honest.

So it isn’t the factor that Schilling’s freedom of speech is being violated. It is a factor that Schilling didn’t consider the consequences of what his freedom of speech might bring onto the company he represents. For those who contend that a “liberal company” is “silencing” a “conservative” thought, it isn’t that at all; it is a business looking to protect its bottom line by eliminating a loose cannon that could cost it money, plain and simple.


Are You a True Hall of Fame If Your Greatest Aren’t There?


On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America (for some reason abbreviated as the BBWAA instead of BWAA, but I digress) announced the players who had earned the requisite number of votes for entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Named on all but three of the ballots returned to the BBWAA – for a 99.3% tally, the best all-time – was outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr., in his first year of eligibility. He will be joined by catcher Mike Piazza, who has been waiting for a few years when he too should have been a first ballot entry (we’ll get to that in a moment). Other deserving players such as Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith and Curt Schilling came up short and will have to wait until next year for another shot.


The problem with the BBWAA – and with the electorate for other Halls of Fame in other sporting arenas – is that those involved with electing those who would be enshrined into such rarefied air seem to want to serve as some sort of “arbiter of the game” or “Lord Protector” of what is holy about a sport. You get past the four names at the end of the paragraph above and you see other names that, in their own right, arguably should have been elected the first time their names appeared on the ballot. Roger Clemens (received 199 votes, 45.2%), Barry Bonds (195 votes, 44.3%), Mark McGwire (54 votes, 12.3%) and Sammy Sosa (31 votes, 7%) are all quite a distance from reaching that magic 75% threshold and, in McGwire’s case, are running out of years left on their eligibility for being voted in by the BBWAA (a player has to be retired for five years before being considered; said player then has ten years to garner the 75% votes for election to the Hall before being removed from the ballot, as McGwire will be next year).

All of these men have put up some of the greatest individual achievements in the history of the game. Clemens has won the Cy Young Award seven times while striking out 4672 batters (third all time). Bonds not only took the single season home run record away from McGwire, he also eclipsed the career home run record of the legendary Hank Aaron while winning the MVP Award seven times. McGwire was a former Rookie of the Year who won two World Series titles and was a 12-time All-Star while earning the best home run-to-at bat ratio in the history of the game. Perhaps the only weak link is Sosa, who could only claim one MVP award and seven All-Star appearances over his career.

So why are these guys not in the Baseball Hall of Fame? And is your sport’s “pantheon” of greatness a true Hall of Fame if your greatest players/contributors aren’t there?

In baseball’s case the BBWAA, when they were tasked with the duties of electing people to the Hall of Fame, were given criteria for consideration, if you will, as they pondered their decisions on who to elect. Under the BBWAA Method of Election subsection entitled “Voting,” the criteria states, “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” (Highlights by the writer.)

Therein lies the problem with Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and a host of others from the Steroids Era of baseball. Although they were never caught – hell, in most cases it is believed that baseball turned a blind eye towards the usage of steroids so the players could bulk up, smash home runs and bring fans back to the game – they live under the scarlet “S” of suspicion of using steroids over their careers. Bonds (never admitted but somewhat proven in a court of law) and McGwire (confessed eventually) have danced around the issue while Clemens has vehemently denied ever using anything, despite having his close friend and former teammate Andy Pettitte admit his usage and allege Clemens’ (Clemens said his wife used steroids, which doesn’t look good when your supposed “personal trainer” is allegedly stabbing your wife’s backside with ‘roids, but not you). Sosa conveniently forgets the English language when the subject comes up.

By the literal reading of the criteria for the BBWAA, then those that have been found to have been users (we’re talking to you, Alex Rodriguez) or are from a preponderance of the evidence believed to have used (Bonds, Clemens, et. al.) should not have a seat among the greatest in the game, the pantheon known as the Hall of Fame, for violating the sportsmanship and, perhaps more importantly, the integrity and character of the game. It is the same reasoning that has been unfortunately used for more than two decades on one man and for almost a century on another (wrongly, but we’ll get to that).


Another story during baseball’s Hot Stove league was baseball’s pariah, its Lost Son, Pete Rose, applying for reinstatement to the game. Having been banished from baseball in 1989 for gambling on the game (something that will lead us to our second case), Rose had survived at its periphery but was unable to fully receive all the accolades he truly deserved for his lifetime achievements. Because of the banishment (more on this in a second), the BBWAA would not consider him for the Hall of Fame – despite the fact that Rose is one of the game’s all-time great players and its all-time leader in hits with 4256, three World Series titles and 17 All-Star appearances. He also couldn’t work in any capacity with any Major League Baseball franchise, meaning his managing career was over.

With a new Commissioner of Baseball in place, Rob Manfred (who succeeded Bud Selig as the 10th Commissioner of the game), Rose felt that the time was right to take a stab at being reinstated, perhaps to reach that elusive goal of the Hall of Fame, maybe to perhaps get into that front office job or work as a scout for a team (strangely enough, Rose had done work with the Fox Sports 1 as a baseball analyst during the 2015 MLB Playoffs). After some investigation – which allegedly found that Rose still gambles on baseball and other activities – Manfred refused to reinstate Rose to the game and, thus, his odyssey continues.


The situation where it has been used wrongly is in the case of the unfortunate “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. One of the outstanding players of the early 20th century, Jackson was accused (along with seven of his Chicago White Sox teammates) of throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Although Jackson and his teammates were acquitted in a trial in 1921 of any wrongdoing in the case, the first Commissioner of Baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, banned all from the game.

The problem with this is that Jackson, or at least his performance during the 1919 World Series, was doing everything apparently that he could to win the Series. He was the best hitter on both teams, batting .375, and hit the only home run on either team. He threw out five baserunners from left field and handled 30 fielding chances without an error. The seven other players, following Jackson’s death in 1951, stated that he was not a part of the plan to fix the 1919 World Series, but Jackson to this day is banned from the game and, thus, from the Hall of Fame.

Perhaps the situation will begin to change over the coming years, however. Manfred, when announcing that Rose would not be reinstated to the game, indicated that the BBWAA reticence to induct players who have run afoul of baseball’s rules is simply a way for them to dodge having to deal with how to induct them into the Hall. In his official statement announcing that Rose would not be reinstated to baseball, Manfred said, “It is not part of MLB’s authority or responsibility here to make any determination concerning Mr. Rose’s eligibility as a candidate for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame,” and “any debate over Mr. Rose’s eligibility for the Hall of Fame is one that must take place in a different forum.”

Depending on the transgressions, a person is usually entitled to either a second chance or, lacking that, a firm examination of their work and recognition for it with the explanation about their actions. For example, in the steroids case, Bonds, McGwire and Clemens could have a simple statement placed on their plaques that recognize they played in an era where usage of “chemical enhancement” was rampant. For Rose and perhaps Jackson, a similar statement could be made regarding violating one of the base tenets of the game of baseball, to not bet on its outcome (even though it doesn’t appear Jackson did). Other players in the Baseball Hall of Fame utilized spitballs, were racists, even allegedly killed during their careers…but they’re in the Hall of Fame. To keep these men out just doesn’t seem to fit the crime.

Perhaps the answer to the question we asked earlier – in the case of the Baseball Hall of Fame, at least – is that some of your greatest players cannot be a part of your Hall of Fame, yet it is still the pantheon that it is supposed to be. But perhaps, at some point, the change will come and the powers that be – whether it is the sportswriters, broadcasters, the “Veteran’s Committee” or perhaps a young boy or girl watching the game today – who will look back at the cases, names and achievements of men like Jackson, Rose, Bonds, Clemens…and say, “Why not? Why AREN’T they in the Hall of Fame?”

Should I REALLY Send That Tweet?

If you haven’t kept up with the news of late (and admittedly it isn’t Earth-shattering news), ESPN baseball analyst and former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is currently under suspension from “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” over some things that he posted over his personal Twitter account. In one meme (and really, can we cut the usage of memes? If you can’t say it yourself, don’t use a supposedly funny picture to do it) Schilling compared radical Islamic terrorists to the Nazi Party of Germany in the 1930s; in another, he details what each component of the Confederate Battle Flag represents, apparently as a method of making it palatable for others. For posting those things, Schilling was removed from his seat covering the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, and it is possible that he may lose his job over the situation.

Schilling isn’t alone in being caught in this situation. Three years ago, Olympic athlete Lolo Jones unknowingly responded “want to race me” in a Tweet to former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand. The problem? LeGrand was paralyzed in 2010 in an on-field incident (she also backhanded him by implying he had a concussion, something that is plaguing organized football even today). In January, Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal used her Twitter account to imply that she would use her influence as a politician to thwart “white privilege.” Then there is the entertaining, infuriating buffoon known as Donald Trump who, in his pursuit (?) of being the next President of the United States, seems to at least once an hour issue a social media missive that probably should have been reconsidered. And we’re barely scratching the surface, folks…there’s a litany of things like this.

It seems as though athletes and celebrities fall into this pit way too often. In an attempt to either look intelligent, hip or funny, the people that are famous (or infamous) for what they do post items on social media that get them into hot water with most importantly their employers but also their sponsors, charitable organizations and even advocacy groups they work to support. It leaves many wondering what these people are thinking of when they get on their particular social media of choice.

Social media has definitely changed the way that the world interacts. As little as 20 years ago, it was difficult to instantly contact someone on the other side of the globe in real time. Even ten years ago, such things as Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn were in their infancy (Twitter wasn’t created until 2006, believe it or not) while MySpace was dominating the world. At that time, we hadn’t even heard of such things as Instagram, Tumblr and Foursquare. All of these social media outlets, however, have had their time in the spotlight due to somebody doing something stupid while on the computer.

There are definitely some rules that a person should implement before they decide if they should go ahead with a post, Tweet or Instagram picture. If celebrities, politicians and other important people used these – and the Everyday Joe should consider it also – then we could avoid the embarrassment that sometimes appears each time a brainless dolt who has millions of admirers does something they shouldn’t have done on the internet.

1. Does This Picture (Meme)…? – There are many considerations that come into play when it comes to pictures (and memes used by people) posted on Facebook, Instagram and even Snapchat (while the photos and videos delete, they can be captured for the short period they are online and they are a permanent part of the Snapchat servers) and they all begin with some form of “Does this picture…” Let’s list off a couple here:

A) Does this picture present me in a bad light? Perhaps the photo of you doing a keg stand at that college football tailgate party isn’t the best one you want to use as your Facebook account profile picture. Employers have started searching the Facebook and Twitter rolls when people apply for jobs and, especially in the case of those just leaving college or even already in the workforce but looking for new employment, the photos and memes you present on social media is going to be something that reflects on you (unless your name is John Smith, then you might be able to get a flyer).

B) Is this a picture of some illegal or illicit activity? Just ask former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner about how a picture he thought he was sending to someone privately exploded in his face. When you are committing an illicit act (or even an illegal one), it is probably not a good idea to trumpet it over the internet. Even though Weiner’s activity was a private one, even a private activity or conversation can come back to bite you in the ass.

2. Would I Say This (Post This Picture) In Public? – This is a huge one that many overlook when they get on social media. Just because you have some semblance of anonymity on the internet (hey, people don’t know you, you’re just a pixelated page in front of them and, in some cases, you can use an alias!), it is not a license to say whatever you think without regard for common decency. Many may decry this as being “too-PC” but in reality it comes from something that we used to have to deal with on a daily basis, being a halfway decent person.

My rules regarding this part are twofold:

A) Would I say what I am about to say to my mother? Hey, Mom is always a good idea to fall back on when it comes to considering whether something you’re about to do or say should be broadcast. In some cases, Mom’s always been proud of what I’ve done, but there’s been those times when Mom washed my mouth out with soap for the things I said (literally). Although I like to think my Mom is pretty hip, she’s still older and there is a modicum of decorum that has to be upheld.

B) Would I say what I am about to say in a bar? Stick with me on this one. If I am sitting in a bar having some drinks, there are usually several conversations between its patrons. If something that I am going to say is going to push one of those patrons to punch me in the mouth for saying it, I probably shouldn’t be broadcasting it over the internet. While some people find enjoyment in “stirring the shit,” if you do it too often, you’re going to catch that fist in the jaw.

3. Am I Doing This Too Soon? – Sometimes people look to be first with a post (or a picture, even) rather than thinking about just what they are doing or saying. For myself, I’ve learned in some circumstances to use the “24-Hour Rule” when it comes to posting. The “24-Hour Rule” is simple enough:  if I still feel the same way about a situation 24 hours later, then I’ll go ahead with a post or comment regarding an issue. Likewise, if I feel that the photo I’ve taken while I MIGHT be doing something questionable is a good one, then I’ll go about putting it on the internet. Through using the “24-Hour Rule,” there are many circumstances that could be avoided by celebrities and, well, everyone.

And finally perhaps the most important point…

4. Is What I Am Saying True? – This is more in tune with commenting regarding certain posts, putting up memes and situations such as that rather than pictures. There is already enough falsehood on the internet. Hell, there are sites that have sprung up, like or, that will let you know whether that anecdote or photograph is true or not. Use them! I personally don’t like when someone attempts to use a lie to get their point across as it completely discredits them in that arguments and future discussions.

Through usage of some or all of these thoughts, everyone – not just celebrities, politicians and other notable figures – can avoid getting entangled in such situation on social media. While the internet is a great place for the exchange of ideas, it doesn’t mean that you have to hit “Send” or “Post” for everything that you do online. If everyone implemented these ideas, it would give the mainstream media less to talk about; perhaps we would then get some “real” news on the channels rather than celebrity gossip.

(Thinking)…Nah, that’ll never happen!