Roxanne Jones says Curt Schilling's anti-transgender rant is a flaw that called for firing
She says going from jock to journalist means sticking to your expertise, not spreading bias
Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer and as a reporter at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She was named a 2010 Woman of the Year by Women in Sports and Events. Jones is a co-author of “Say It Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete” and CEO of the Push Marketing Group. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
“I’m loud, I talk too much, I think I know more than I do, those and a billion other issues I know I have. Like every one of you I have flaws, but I’m OK with my flaws, they’re what make me me,” Curt Schilling posted on his blog Tuesday, a day before he was fired from ESPN after another of his social media rants, this time against transgender people.
And he’s right in his blog sentiments. We do all have flaws. But he still deserved to be fired.
Not fair, you say. What about freedom of speech, you ask?
Well, the huge difference is Schilling is not like most of you. The day he walked off the mound and decided to collect a paycheck as a baseball analyst, he gave up his right to publicly rant about just any subject that popped into his head.
Because while the public may care very much about his expert baseball insights and opinions, his uninformed, biased opinions on everything from Muslims to Nazis to Hillary Clinton and her emails, and now transgender communities, have added nothing intelligent to any conversation, sports or otherwise.
In my own career, I enjoy the opportunity to work with and hire many active and retired pro athletes. Generally, it’s a great experience and everyone benefits – journalists, athletes, and most importantly you, the sports fan.
Those of us working in media learn from the pros how to be smarter about the sports we cover. I’ll always be grateful for the long hours guys like NFLers Ron Jaworski, Tony McGee and Tony Dungy spent teaching me how to watch game film and recognize blitz formations or break down the salary cap when I was a young NFL editor.
It was an education you couldn’t get just by playing football on an amateur level (sorry guys) or by writing about the sport.
Athletes learn from us media professionals how to transition from their sexy superstar worlds to the less glamorous world of the office cubicle, where garbage-can basketball and running to your next meeting might be the most exercise you get all day. These former aces quickly find out it’s a whole different ballgame when they are required to critique the performances or bad behavior of their former locker room buddies.
Beyond that, they have to deal with the inevitable newsroom bias of just about every wannabe sports reporter jock who thinks writing about a sport makes you much smarter than the athlete actually playing the game. Imagine that? Going from jock to journalist is by no means as easy as NFL Hall of Famer turned daytime media darling Michael Strahan makes it look. Just ask Tiki Barber.
So, sorry Schilling. Life off the field is a bit complicated. In the real world, freedom of speech has limits, especially for employees – as successful TV anchor Wendy Bell could tell you. She was recently fired after her racially charged Facebook rant. So could any in a long list of regular working stiffs who’ve taken to social media to rant against their bosses.
Gone are the bad old “glory days” when hate speech was widely used and ignored by the public. We’ve taken a definite step forward. You might not like it but those are rules of the game – especially if you want to keep your job.