ESPN fires top commentator for sharing meme on Facebook

From The New York Times

By Richard Sandomir

(CAN editor's note: The word "offensive" in the first paragraph reflects the news writer's opinion, and should not be construed as fact.)

Curt Schilling, a former All-Star pitcher and one of the highest-profile baseball analysts on ESPN, was fired from the network Wednesday, a day after he drew intense criticism for promoting offensive commentary on social media.

Schilling, who had worked for the network since 2010 and most recently offered analysis on “Monday Night Baseball,” was dismissed after sharing a Facebook post this week that appeared to respond to the North Carolina law that bars transgender people from using bathrooms and locker rooms that do not correspond with their birth genders.

The post showed an overweight man wearing a wig and women’s clothing with parts of the T-shirt cut out to expose his breasts. It says: “LET HIM IN! to the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow-minded, judgmental, unloving racist bigot who needs to die.”

To that, Schilling added: “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”

“ESPN is an inclusive company,” ESPN said in a statement. “Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.”

Schilling, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.

It was the latest in a number of commentaries by Schilling on social media that have drawn controversy. He was suspended for a month after he posted a comment on Twitter in August that compared radical Muslims to Nazis.

Earlier Wednesday, Schilling appeared on a show on WEEI radio in Boston and defended himself against accusations of intolerance and racism.

“To be in a place where people actually believe I’m a racist or I’m transphobic says to me that something has gone horribly askew somewhere,” he told the hosts on WEEI, sounding weary and bewildered by his latest social media furor.

Schilling told WEEI: “I replied to the post. I didn’t post that.”

But a screen image captured by showed that Schilling had shared it and added his own comment.

On his personal blog on Tuesday, Schilling did not back down, even as advocates in the transgender community called for his dismissal.

“Let’s make one thing clear right upfront,” he wrote. “If you get offended by ANYTHING in this post, that’s your fault, all yours.” He added: “This latest brew ha ha is beyond hilarious. I didn’t post that ugly picture. I made a comment about the basic functionality of men’s and women’s restrooms, period.”

Schilling’s son, Grant, defended his father Tuesday on Facebook, saying: “And while I will say he’s not the most well informed in the modern LGBT+ culture, i can assure you he’s made great strides to understand people today. If he were a bigot he wouldn’t have allowed my Trans friends to stay over, he’s respected pronouns and name changes- never once have I heard him say something to me that I thought he should keep quiet about.”

After his suspension last season, Jessica Mendoza replaced Schilling on ESPN’s marquee “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcasts. He was subsequently reassigned to the network’s games on Monday nights.

Last month, he waded into politics on a Kansas City radio station when he suggested that Hillary Clinton “should be buried under a jail somewhere” if she gave “classified information on hundreds if not thousands of emails on a public server, after what happened to General Petraeus.”

Last year, David H. Petraeus, a former C.I.A. director and a top general in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, was sentenced to two years’ probation by a federal judge for providing classified information to a woman with whom he was having an affair.

Analysts said ESPN was left with little choice after Schilling’s repeated offenses.

“If you’re taking a paycheck from ESPN, you have to be extra careful about how you communicate publicly and always err on the side of caution and responsibility,” said James Andrew Miller, a co-author of “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN.”

“It’s not an unfair or impractical position for ESPN to hold,” he added. “If you want to express your own opinions in a provocative way on social media, then ESPN and a lot of other media organizations are probably not where you should be working.”

Schilling describes himself on his Facebook account as a “Conservative pro life pro 2nd amendment American who wants to help those that cannot help themselves.”

Schilling, a six-time All-Star, was one of baseball’s top pitchers over a 20-year career and compiled a record of 216-146 while pitching for the Baltimore Orioles, the Houston Astros, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Boston Red Sox. He was even better in the postseason, with an 11-2 record and a 2.23 E.R.A.

He is perhaps best known for pitching in the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Yankees with his right sock bloody from a procedure that had been used to secure a dislocated tendon in his right ankle. Schilling pitched seven innings, and the Red Sox won, 4-2. Boston went on to win Game 7 and then the World Series.


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