Friday, August 28, 2015

Victim of its own creation

The ever popular sports network ESPN has been attempting to broaden its franchise by branching out into social commentary over the past decade or two. Its award winning show Outside the Lines has done a terrific job exploring the lives of sports affiliated personalities away from their respective competition. As such, this has spawned many other programs which have allowed sports guys and gals the opportunity to stray from pontificating merely on athletics.

But such an expansion of programming has had its downside as the likes of Stephen A. Smith, Colin Cowherd and Bill Simmons have each endured suspensions for variations of objectionable commentary.

This past week, yet another commentator has faced ESPN management's wrath

Curt Schilling, a star pitcher who was in the Major Leagues for 20 years and a baseball analyst for ESPN, was suspended from his Little League World Series duty after sending a controversial tweet Tuesday.

The tweet re-posted a meme that reads: "It's said only 5-10% of Muslims are extremists. In 1940, only 7% of Germans were Nazis. How'd that go?"

The text was superimposed of a red-tinted photo of Adolf Hitler.

Schilling added, "The math is staggering when you get to true #'s."

"Curt's tweet was completely unacceptable, and in no way represents our company's perspective," ESPN said in a written statement. "We made that point very strongly to Curt and have removed him from his current Little League assignment pending further consideration."

Schilling deleted the tweet after individually replying to his some of his critics and supporters.

In one he wrote, "needed to actually think a bit before acting on that one, or not acting. On me though."

A couple of issues I have:

First, the story was widely reported as Schilling tweeting something offensive about Muslims. That's quite misleading as you can see from the meme posted. It referenced 5-10% of Muslims, a small minority. But Schilling's point seemed to be that, despite the small percentage, fanatical types can overshadow the more moderate and passive factions of its movement.

Second, it's been pretty well established that terror organizations like Al-Qaeda and ISIL are extremist groups who commit their horrific acts in the name of its Muslim religion. However, a vast majority of Muslim leaders contend that ISIL's actions are extreme and that they have wildly strayed from the true path of Islam. So what exactly did ESPN find "unacceptable?"

In the end, ESPN wanted to be a "progressive" channel by offering more than the mere highlights of sporting events taking place. As such, they brought on guys like Smith, Simmons and Schilling, all of whom carried a well established reputation for "no holds barred" commentary. I guess I'm rather surprised that they would express such dismay when these guys lived up to that well-earned rep.


No comments: