Earlier this week, ESPN fired baseball commentator Curt Schilling following criticism he received after sharing an offensive image attacking transgender people on Facebook, affirming that media is increasingly refusing to accept discriminatory language from staff.
In response to the backlash, Schilling wrote on his blog that those who have spoken out were “just dying to be offended” so they “can create some sort of faux cause to rally behind.” Schilling has a history of posting crass messages online and was previously suspended after posting an image that compared Muslims to Nazis. Former ESPN ombudsmen previously described how Schilling would post “hurtful” messages which reflected on ESPN because “Curt Schilling is representing ESPN.”
Schilling’s termination this week reflects a larger wave among media companies, who are acting after media figures' comments create a backlash which reflect poorly upon companies that employ them. In March, Univision fired a TV host who used racially inflammatory comments on its network. CNN and MSNBC have banned Roger Stone from appearing on air after his sexist and racist tweets were revealed.
The New York Times' Richard Sandomir positively highlights ESPN’s decision to fire Curt Schilling for violating the company's corporate policy and noted that this type of language is hurtful and unnecessary:
When [Schilling] shared the message on social media earlier this week, he did not seem to grasp that he had implicitly endorsed it, especially after he added a comment about which public restrooms are appropriate for men and which are not. He is a public figure with a well-developed online profile as a political conservative and Second Amendment supporter who, by the way, was a terrific pitcher over a 20-season career. His propensity for living on the third rail of social media was at odds with ESPN’s internal policy that cautions its workers to be prudent.
But by Wednesday, ESPN had had enough of him and fired him from his job as an analyst on “Monday Night Baseball.” He had been sent there from his previous, more prestigious position on Sunday night games, for retweeting a message last summer about extreme Muslims and Nazis, which earned him a monthlong suspension.
In firing him, ESPN shed itself of a nuisance who did not, or could not, follow corporate policy and could not grasp that passing around an anti-transgender message digitally might affect people who are finding their way to new gender identities. Crass words and visuals hurt.
We are in a moment when tolerance exists side-by-side with intolerance. Same-sex marriage is widely accepted, but North Carolina enacts its bathroom law. Advocacy groups like the You Can Play Project and Athlete Ally fight homophobia in sports, yet players still utter anti-gay slurs in the heat of the moment — and after the sweat dries, they say their spontaneous exhortations do not represent who they are.
But, of course, the language of bias is as hurtful as it is unnecessary.