April 27, 2016

ELDEN | Should ESPN Have Fired Curt Schilling?

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Curt Schilling was a phenomenal athlete. He threw more than 3,000 innings, was a six-time all-star, a World Series MVP in 2001 and made over 100 million dollars over the course of his career. He finished sixth in Hall of Fame voting this January, capturing 52.3 percent of the vote. At worst, he is a very good player who had a very long and successful career as a pitcher. No one would argue that he wasn’t talented, or that he wasn’t knowledgeable about the sport. However, other parts of his life have inspired controversy.

Schilling’s exploits after his playing career are interesting. For instance, he started a video gaming business called 38 Studios with his fortune, not a typical business move by a former athlete. His first business venture was considered a success until problems in 2014 stemmed from an attempted relocation, causing problems with loans that forced the company to shut down. This thrust Schilling, who invested the entirety of his fortune — approximately $50 million — into his company, to file for bankruptcy.

In addition to starting 38 Studios following retirement, Schilling was diagnosed with throat cancer — likely caused by regular use of chewing tobacco during his playing days. Luckily, his cancer went into remission, and he secured a position with ESPN as a baseball analyst.

Schilling has also been heavily involved in politics, voicing support for George W. Bush in 2004. He has even considered senate runs on multiple occasions. Schilling often posts photos, videos and memes on his public Facebook account that express his political views. But because of this, just recently, ESPN fired him for one of several memes that was branded as “offensive” to the transgender community.

I am not personally condoning his posts or his views, but regardless of how offensive the meme was, I don’t believe that we should crucify him for having this perspective. Leading up to his dismissal, he posted content comparing Muslim extremists to German Nazis and suggested that Hillary Clinton should be “buried under a jail somewhere.” It is understandable that ESPN, a left-leaning company, would attempt to distance themselves from Schilling, who has been a proponent for conservatism and is a born-again Christian. However, I do not feel that it is ethical for a company to discriminate against an individual for his or her political views, even if they are extremist and offensive.

Schilling’s views and posts may not have contained views that I agreed with, or that I would feel are appropriate for saying publicly, but I still don’t think that his political views warranted either the media firestorm or his termination from ESPN. Had his views been on the other end of the spectrum, I doubt that he would have been publicly vilified as much as Schilling was.

I don’t agree with a lot of what Schilling says, but he does make a valid point. He has a right to spout off about whatever he pleases, and we have a right to not pay attention to him as we please. Can we consider ourselves tolerant people if we are intolerant towards others? I don’t believe we can create a fair and constructive political environment while we are condemning people for their beliefs because we don’t agree with them.