Yesterday, former ESPNer and current full-time Facebook uncle Curt Schilling gave his first lengthy interview since being fired a week ago for posting the meme that broke the camel’s back. And yes, he’s got some things to say about ESPN and the real racists.
Schilling, who has repeatedly decried echo chambers and safe spaces, appeared on the “Breitbart News Patriot Forum.” He said that ESPN’s real problem with him was not that he commented on politics, but that his political comments expressed the wrong ideology. “It was apparent to me early on that if you wanted to go off topic as a sportsperson,” Schilling said, “you had to go off topic left, or you were going to get into trouble.”
He claimed that ESPN, which once suspended Keith Law from Twitter for politely defending evolution from attacks by Schilling, is biased against conservatives, as proven by its continued employment of on-air talent he considers racist.
“Some of the most racist things that I’ve ever heard come out of people that are on the air at ESPN,” Schilling said.
“There are some of the biggest racists in sports commentating, and you take it for what it is,” the 49-year-old continued. “You know who they are, you know what they are. I like that they are open because then you know who they are. You know that they exist.”
Schilling did not specifically clarify which of his former co-workers were racist or had said racist things. But he was asked, after the show, about his belief that ESPN only punishes political speech on one side of the spectrum, and gave two examples.
“The memo that was sent out more than once was about they wanted on air-talent to focus on sports. To me that means focus on sports unless you want to talk about something that is part of the liberal agenda.
“You listen to Stephen A. Smith, and Stephen A. Smith was the guy who said that Robert Griffin didn’t play quarterback for the Redskins because he’s black. No, Robert Griffin didn’t play quarterback for the Redskins because he [stunk].
“. . . Tony Kornheiser compared the Tea Party to ISIS. I don’t know any planet where those are sports topics. But I don’t care. It’s OK. I think those conversations need to happen. But as soon as you go to the flip side, the right side, there are repercussions for not talking about sports.”
(Here are the contexts of Smith’s and Kornheiser’s comments. Smith was speculating on whether Jay Gruden’s treatment of Griffin differed from that of Kirk Cousins, and how that fit into a long history of black quarterbacks being held to different standards. Kornheiser was interviewing a political journalist about infighting within the Republican Party, and mentioned ISIS as an example of a rejectionist movement.)
To a certain bent of shallow thinking, Schilling has identified a double standard:
That’s false, of course. Schilling was not punished for his opinions, but for repeatedly expressing forthright bigotry and endorsing discrimination. Schilling did not merely express a belief that transgender women are not “real” women; he supported a law that bans them from public facilities in the guise of demonizing them all as potential criminals, and he did it in the crudest, most dehumanizing way possible. In March, if Curt Schilling had criticized Hillary Clinton’s policy proposals or record, no one would have cared. Instead, Schilling said she “should be buried under a jail.”
There’s a truly harmful belief that the right to say something is the same as the right to have it taken seriously. In this line of thinking, all voices are equally valid—even those that would deny rights to large swaths of people. Dismissively, it’s called the “gotta hear both sides” fallacy. In practice, it normalizes the crazy and the evil and the stupid by implying that everyone deserves to have even actively harmful beliefs treated respectfully. They don’t, and hate is not just an opinion, like preferring blue to orange.
ESPN’s no-politics policy is silly because it’s overbroad and unenforceable, and because only retrograde man-children desperate to find a safe space for ideologies that the real world is rapidly consigning to history’s reject pile think it’s possible or desirable to keep real-world issues out of sports. And in reality, that policy wasn’t enforced here: Schilling was fired not because he didn’t stick to sports, but because he would not stop being an embarrassment to ESPN, and had become a burden. He is deeply ignorant, despicable, and his views are wrong. He will fit in well at Fox Sports.