ESPN: Should an anchor be fired for anti-Trump tweets?
President Trump has made no secret of his contempt for the free press, said Will Bunch in Philly.com, but this week he launched “one of the most breathtaking abuses of the First Amendment that I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.” The target was Jemele Hill, an African-American sports anchor on ESPN, who last week on Twitter called Trump a “white supremacist” whose election was “a direct result of white supremacy. Period.” Trump, as usual, responded with an angry tweet of his own— demanding an apology and blaming ESPN’s slumping viewership on its “bad politics.” But he didn’t stop there. The next day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders urged ESPN to treat Hill’s comments as “a fireable offense.” It’s deeply chilling when the federal government uses its power to try to get a journalist fired for expressing an opinion, said Aaron Blake in WashingtonPost.com. “It’s also hypocritical.” Before and after he began running for president, Trump repeatedly called President Obama a “racist,” insisted he was foreign-born and therefore an illegitimate president, and even accused him of being a secret Muslim who sympathized with Islamist terrorists. Should NBC have fired Donald Trump from The Apprentice for those utterly unfounded slurs?
The “double standard” here is ESPN’s, said Brian Flood in FoxNews.com. Last year the network fired baseball analyst Curt Schilling for expressing his conservative views on Twitter— including his retweet of a satirical image of a hairy fat guy in a dress demanding access to a girls’ bathroom. The black, liberal Hill got away with only a “mild reprimand” from ESPN, while the white, conservative Schilling lost his job. That’s because ESPN is now an unabashedly left-wing network, said John Calvin in Spectator.org. It’s devoted endless hours to lauding former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick for his Black Lives Matter protest during the national anthem, and last week host Stephen A. Smith praised a banner unfurled at a Boston Red Sox game that stated “Racism is as American as Baseball.”
“If Jemele Hill deserves firing for calling Trump a white supremacist,” said Leonard Pitts Jr. in the Miami Herald, then what does Trump deserve “for actually being one?” The young Trump and his father, let’s remember, were sued for refusing to rent apartments to black tenants. While running for president, Trump described illegal Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and complained that an Indianaborn judge was unfit to preside over a lawsuit involving Trump because he was “a Mexican.” His “birther” campaign was nakedly racist. Trump’s supporters were thrilled by such bigotry because it was “politically incorrect,” said Jamelle Bouie in Slate.com. But when Kaepernick dared to protest police shootings of black males, and Hill called out Trump for praising some “very fine people” at a Charlottesville, Va., rally organized by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, outraged white Americans demanded that those mouthy blacks lose their jobs. In America, it seems, “protesting racism might make you a pariah. Indulging it might put you in the Oval Office.”
What does any of this have to do with sports? asked the Washington Examiner in an editorial. Maybe ESPN wouldn’t be suffering steadily declining ratings if it didn’t impose its “left-wing moral posturing” on its viewers, and went back to focusing on “games, reporting scores, and breaking down the big plays.” That being said, the White House’s call for Hill to be fired “smacks of an effort to chill speech,” which is simply not how we do things in America. “We wish Team Trump would not stoop so low.” ■