Free Speech: Sports Edition
You see folks, nearly everything in this country nowadays is a teachable moment. For example, the gentleman above is Dan LeBatard. He is not your usual free speech topic.
When he was on PTI: Pardon the Interruption, it was magical. He was, by far, the best guest host that show ever had. LeBatard was so good that ESPN rewarded him with his own show. The corporate overlords rolled out Highly Questionable and that, too, was a really good production. All the while LeBatard continued to write and do his own radio show in Miami. I actually like Dan LeBatard on most ESPN platforms.
And I agree that Dan LeBatard has the right to free speech. If he wants to call the ESPN bosses cowardly for not addressing racism in the latest Trump firestorm, he should 100% be allowed to voice his opinion and I'm not here to argue with the content of his current rant.
Then why in the hell am I writing this article? Here's the problem. If Dan LeBatard would have taken to the airwaves and taken the EXACT OPPOSITE opinion, he would have been fired today.
If LeBetard went on the air and said:
"I stand with President Trump. America is the greatest nation in the world and foreigners who subvert the American way of life are the enemies of the American People.
Donald Trump didn't say Black People should go back to Africa, he said that one specific American, who circumvented immigration law by marrying her own brother, maybe shouldn't be here if America is such a terrible place.
Hell, I've got a black friend who told me he'd never go to Africa. He said that he wants to be the majority race in a GOOD country, not in some African Shithole like Somalia." (The studio erupts with laughter.)
If LeBatard had said that, there would literally be flames shooting out of the windows of the ESPN Mothership. Executives would fire LeBatard before the last syllable of his Right-Wing blasphemy escaped his lips. Former co-hosts Bomani Jones and Micheal Wilborn would tie Dan up, drive him to the outskirts of Bristol Connecticut, and push him out into the mud themselves.
Back in 2010, LeBron James made the decision to leave the Cleveland Cavs for the Miami Heat. The Cleveland Fans were irate and Heat Fans, like Dan LeBatard, told Cleveland to get over it. When LeBron left Miami....
Well, LeBatard basically started saying similar things about LeBron James that we've said here from the beginning at #LeBron brand at BeaconofSpeech.com. When LeBron was with the Heat, LeBatard wanted Cleveland to shut up. When LeBron was back with Cleveland, LeBetard couldn't berate James enough.
Which sums up the free speech argument in this country quite nicely. Everyone wants their Free Speech protected. They don't want that other guys' Free Speech protected. Again, there are limits to free speech.
What if LeBetard went on the air and said:
"You know who I'm sick of? Ilhan Omar. I'm going to hop in my truck and drive to Minneapolis and assassinate Ilhan Omar myself. Who wants to meet me in Minnesota and cover me?
Then in that case, Dan LeBatard should be fired. But....
What if LeBetard went on the air and said:
"You know who I'm sick of? Donald Trump. I'm going to hop in my truck and drive to Washington D.C. and assassinate Donald Trump myself. Who wants to meet me in the nation's capital and cover me?
Would ESPN fire LeBatard in that case? I'm not entirely sure that they would. There would be a meeting with a bunch of guys in suits in the corporate board room and the meeting would go something like this:
Suit #1: Listen we HAVE to fire LeBatard.
Suit #2: I agree.
Suit #1: Okay, he's gone.
Suit #3: Ummm, before we do this. I should point out that Dan is actually the most popular ESPN personality outside of the PTI guys. If we fire him, there's actually going to be some blowback from some of our core demographics.
Suit #1: It doesn't matter, he's gone.
Suit #2: Well, I can't say that I don't feel the same way about Trump as Dan does, but he can't say that.
Suit #4: Is there any way we could, maybe, explain his comments away? Tell the press that he was caught up in the moment and using hyperbole?
Suit #5: I agree, LeBatard wasn't really going to kill anyone. That's his schtick, he's over the top.
Suit #1: Well what do you suggest then?
Suit #2: How about a one month suspension, starting today. It's the slow part of the Sports Year anyhow. We don't lose that many advertisers, viewers are satisfied with a slap on the wrist, and we don't lose one of our best talents to FoxSports 1.
Suit #1: Okay, let's run it by the ESPN lawyers and the ESPN marketing team to see if the suspension is a reasonable solution.....
When the parameters of Free Speech aren't determined by the Constitution, but by corporate boardrooms, you are in big, big trouble.
(Maybe we should solve racism the FIFA way and make all Americans wear the Respect Patch.)