#FBF: Social Responsibility (10/17/17)

Jemele Hill has been suspended for two weeks for expressing her opinion regarding Jerry Jones’, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, mandate to the players on the Cowboys team that they must stand during the national anthem. Jones publicly stated that he would bench any players if they chose to participate in the anthem protest after President Donald Trump said such players should be fired.

Hill suggested that folks should boycott the Dallas Cowboys and the team’s sponsors. The goal of the boycott was to apply pressure on Jones in allowing Cowboy players to decide for themselves how to exercise their Freedom of Speech rights. By speaking out against Jerry Jones’s mandate, Hill violated her company’s, ESPN, social media policy.

There are two ways someone could look at this: either agree with ESPN or take the stance that Hill has every right to express her opinion on the matter. Well, I guess one could also argue both are right, but that is straddling the fence and that’s for those who choose to remain part of the problem (you know the saying, for evil to take root . . . good men to remain silent).

So, is ESPN correct that Hill violated their social media policy? Yes. Hill did speak out against an organization that belongs to a League that ESPN has a media rights deal with. I will give ESPN that point. But there is a principle that ESPN needs to examine if it wants to regain being a leader in the sports journalism industry again. That principle is where does it draw the line in protecting the freedoms embodied in the First Amendment in regards to its bottom line.

The First Amendment is where ESPN, NBC Sports, CBS Sports and any other news broadcasting companies get their rights to express their opinions to the world. It is one of the things that makes the United States different from many other democratic countries. And if ESPN is willing to sell away those rights to feed its bottom line, then it deserves to lose those freedoms . . . . actually, they are freely giving them away at the moment. See every news story has some opinion in it. It is what makes watching different news stations interesting, but it is also the very thing the First Amendment is protecting.

Maybe ESPN should reconsider its social media policy. Employers can find themselves in legal trouble when it comes to using social media in the hiring, firing, or even connecting to employees. So, ESPN should already be looking at legal issues in the matter. More importantly, didn’t ESPN hire Jemelle HIll because she has a personality expressed through her opinions and community activism that can reach a viewership (fans) it would otherwise miss out on?

The anthem protest is about respect . . . respecting each other as humans and each of our own inalienable rights including speech. Jones made a public statement about this issue. It was not something he said in the private confines of his home, office or vehicle. Hill, on the other hand, made a comment to help those fans who are fed up with the “system” (unfortunately, or fortunately, Jones is part of that system) not hearing their cries. The “system” responds to the bottom line . . . a boycott hits that bottom line in a manner that makes the “system” listen.

ESPN has been suspending broadcasters left and right lately, because those broadcasters have given their opinions on various subjects that make people uncomfortable. Perhaps, ESPN should consider if it wants to protect its bottom line more than it wants to help protect its First Amendment rights. And if it chooses that the bottom line is more important than a conversation of varying opinions, then maybe it should let a computer just read off the news and not hire real people to give their thoughts on the matter and just sink into the abyss of news clatter. Because isn’t the reason ESPN hired broadcasters like Hill or Stephen A. Smith is so fans could have a thoughtful conversation or debate?

Let’s put it this way . . . the fact that a college football player, Gyree Durante, was dismissed from his Division III team, Albright College, for participating in the anthem protests (freedom of speech issues), and the fact Colin Kaepernick, the player who got this whole ball rolling, is now legally fighting being blacklisted by NFL owners (antitrust issues) should tell ESPN they may want to find a solution for its broadcasters expression of speech before it finds itself in court. And they should probably find it quick.

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