Curt Schilling said something stupid on the Internet last night. I know! I’m just as shocked as you are.
You may remember Schilling as the bulldog starting pitcher who over 20 seasons struck out 3,116 batters with a sterling 3.23 FIP in 3,261 lifetime innings. The guy who pitched through injury in the 2004 ALCS to help his miracle band of idiots finally beat the Yankees en route to their first championship in 86 years. Schilling’s numbers certainly merit Hall of Fame discussions.
You may also know Schilling as ESPN’s racist stammering idiot commentator who has an affinity for spreading cartoon memes mocking people that aren’t white, rich, or Christian, despite repeatedly getting into hot water with his employer.
That second Schilling struck again last night, because heaven forbid he let the controversy over North Carolina’s recent “bathroom bill” pass without comment:
For starters, the image itself. The transgender community is wildly misunderstood, so using this particular image as a means of stereotyping an entire population of people is not only unfair, it does nothing to improve public perception. The only thing it does is confirm the ignorant biases of people who refuse to take the time to understand the group better.
The meme is also, to this point, simply untrue fear-mongering. You may remember Lance Berkman making similar ill-informed remarks in the fall. In a detailed piece on the “bathroom bill” debate from Time in July 2015, they reference 17 entities who adopted gender-neutral bathrooms, with none reporting of inappropriate or predatory behavior.
Schilling has since removed the post and claimed he didn’t make it (which, if we’re playing semantics, is true; however, sharing someone else’s content on your page is an endorsement of an idea, like it or not). Nevermind his long history of posting and sharing memes that would make your Uncle Jerry cock an eyebrow (we’ll get to those).
No matter how much Schilling tries to disassociate himself with the meme share, he kept it posted for an awfully long time — until public outcry began — and also had this fun little comment (which he owned fully) from last night tacked on, as well.
Whether he’s criticizing Chris Archer’s hair in an ignorant dig against African American culture (never mind his stupid mullet from the nineties) or posting memes comparing Muslims to Nazis — the latter of which earned him a suspension from ESPN — Schilling is very well known for his rampant, snarky intolerance.
He said something interesting about all this in his blog post:
“And for you people too dense to understand this one very important thing. My opinion, 100% mine, and only mine. I don’t represent anyone but myself here, on facebook, on twitter, anywhere.”
When you work for ESPN, your views represent them, too. There’s another question that needs to be posed, then: when is ESPN going to learn with this guy and just sever ties while they can? The more chances they give him, the less protection they have from public scrutiny. If you continue to give second chances to a guy who unabashedly spews hate, you promote hate yourself. Especially when every headline — including this one! — labels him as “ESPN’s Curt Schilling.”
And it’s not as though losing Schilling would be the worst thing for the network. I called him a “commentator” because I can’t remember the last time he said anything of substance during a broadcast to justify the “analyst” title. He just talks, and sloppily.
This isn’t a political issue, perhaps in the way Schilling may try to suggest; it’s a human issue. These are people, not cartoons. He can say all he wants that he has never treated someone as “other than human.” Good for him! Sharing such a meme — no matter who posted it initially — shows he doesn’t look at these individuals that way.
One of the saddest parts of all this, as a baseball fan, is the increasing difficulty in separating Schilling the pitcher and Schilling the person. It’s almost impossible for me now to watch Game 7 of the 2001 World Series — one of my favorite baseball memories ever — and not picture one of the memes he’s shared. I feel dirtier every time I justify his career numbers as worthy of the Hall of Fame.
Perhaps the biggest tragedy of all is that Schilling has a louder platform than others, and the movement toward understanding and tolerance of the transgender community took a huge step backward as he confirms the prejudices of those who will eventually call him “misunderstood” for “telling it like it is” (whatever that empty platitude means).
I didn’t always understand the transgender community. I never knew what to think; I didn’t grow up around anyone who identified as transgender.
The moment I finally began to understand — and sympathize — with the community was when Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender in 2012. She told her story in full detail to Rolling Stone and opened my eyes to the difficulties and challenges those in the community face. It’s an old piece, but still very worth the read.
If you read that — with an open mind — and still don’t “get it,” at least you’re making somewhat of an effort. After all, we as a nation are better off trying to understand each other instead of blindly throwing hate around because of inherent prejudice.
Curt Schilling is entirely within his rights to express his own opinions on the Internet. He is also not free from public scrutiny for those remarks; none of us are. That’s not what “free speech” means in the Constitution.
If Schilling decides to continue sharing bad, offensive memes on Facebook and Twitter, then it’s probably in ESPN’s best interests he doesn’t do so on their payroll.
UPDATE: ESPN has released a statement saying they are looking into the matter:
ESPN on the latest Curt Schilling controversy: “We are taking this matter very seriously and are in the process of reviewing it.”
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) April 20, 2016