Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM’s weekly program “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” He is a columnist for The Daily Beast, editor of the politics blog The Dean’s Report and co-director of the documentary “The Muslims Are Coming!” Follow him on Twitter: @TheDeansreport. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
Curt Shilling posted a tweet comparing extremist Muslims to Nazis, then took it down
Obeidallah: The baseball star found out that you can say intolerant and bigoted things but your employer may well have the last word
Curt Schilling is right. No, I’m not talking about his horribly anti-Muslim tweet in which he shared an image of Adolph Hitler that featured the text: “It’s said that only 5-10% of Muslims are extremists. In 1940, only 7% of Germans were Nazis. How’d that go?” Schilling then added his own views to the tweet, “The math is staggering when you get to true #s.”
That tweet, which was soon deleted, resulted in the former Major League Baseball star being suspended from ESPN’s Little League World Series coverage.
Schilling’s comparison of Islam, a religion practiced by over 1.5 billion people, to the evil, fascist ideology of Nazism is not only patently wrong, but it’s also fear-mongering at its worst. Islam is an Abrahamic faith intertwined with Judaism and Christianity. Not only do Muslims view Jesus, Moses and Abraham as prophets sent by God, the most important religious holiday to Muslims is the sacrifice of Abraham. (Yes, the same Abraham from the Bible.)
But where Schilling was correct was in his statement released shortly after being suspended, in which he stated: “Free speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences as I was so adamant on earlier this year.” He added, “I’m going to be suspended for the tweet earlier today. … I made a mistake on a few levels. And my boss didn’t like it. No one to blame but myself. Time to move on.”
As Schilling noted, you can say whatever you want. But (and this is a big “but”) that doesn’t mean you’re immune from public criticism or even losing your job for making statements that people deem hateful, racist, etc.
I’m sure some will cry out, while looking to the heavens: “What about his First Amendment rights?!” Well, for those who love to cite the U.S. Constitution without having any clue about what it says, let me help you out. The First Amendment provides, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” The operative word there being Congress.
But your boss can make any rule he or she wants about your freedom of speech. If they no longer want to be associated with you after you make hateful comments about blacks, Jews, gays, etc., they have that right. You see, in our nation we have “employment at will.” (Except for Montana.) Bottom line that means except for a few exceptions protected by law (i.e., race, religion, etc.) your boss can fire you for any reason. Let me repeat that: Any reason!
In this case, Schilling made a comment about Muslims that the Disney-owned ESPN did not want to be associated with. Consequently, the company issued a statement within hours of Schilling’s tweet that read in part: “Curt’s tweet was completely unacceptable, and in no way represents our company’s perspective.” Adding, “We made that point very strongly to Curt and have removed him from his current Little League assignment pending further consideration.”
I cannot commend ESPN enough for making it unequivocally clear with this swift response that it will not tolerate anti-Muslim bigotry. It didn’t wait for protests or a social media campaign to prod it to do the right thing.
That’s not surprising given that ESPN is truly a company that prides itself on embracing diversity. The company’s website even boasts the recent diversity awards it has received, such as “Human Rights Campaign Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality,” “National Association of Hispanic Journalists Media Award Winner,” and “Women in Cable Telecommunications Signature Spirit Accolade Winner.”
Sure some will now pat Schilling on the back for taking responsibility for his words. Maybe he deserves that. But the reality is that if Schilling had done anything else, he would have made the matter worse, because in the past Schilling has called out people, including Donald Trump, for their incendiary comments.
In February, Schilling’s high school age daughter was subject to vile attacks by people on social media. Schilling responded by publicly lashing out at the hateful Twitter users in an effort to expose their identity. As a result, some of them were suspended or even fired from their jobs.
More recently, Schilling called out Trump after he ridiculed Sen. John McCain with comments like, “He’s not a war hero.” And worse, “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
In response, Schilling tweeted: “I assumed it would take longer than this, but I’m out on @realDonaldTrump . You don’t ever mock the people that serve, ever.”
Maybe during Schilling’s suspension he can learn a bit about what Islam is truly about, not just what ISIS wants you to believe. And If Schilling doesn’t have a Muslim friend to answer his questions, I’m happy to be one. (Despite being a New York Yankees’ fan.)
Overall, though, given the success of Trump in offering a master class in political incorrectness, we will likely see even more people offering their unfiltered views of minorities, women and religious groups. But understand this, Trump works for himself. The rest of us, with few exceptions, have a boss. So say what you want, but don’t pretend you weren’t warned that if you demonize a group of people, you will likely be complaining about “political correctness run amok” while collecting unemployment.