While our First Amendment gives every American the “freedom of speech,” many people (mostly ignorant bigots, racists and homophobes) are clearly confused about what “freedom of speech” actually means.
What our First Amendment protects is a citizen’s right to say practically whatever they want without fear of legal prosecution for doing so. There are some limitations such as making threats against the president’s life or blatantly trying to slander (defame) another individual. But for the most part, in this country, we are free to say nearly anything we want – no matter how racist, sexist, bigoted, prejudiced, hateful or ignorant.
However, what the First Amendment does not protect is the right for someone to say whatever they want without fear of facing some sort of consequences for their actions. This is especially true with well-known people who represent major news outlets or various media entities. When you work for a company like ESPN, CNN, Fox News, ABC or CBS you not only work for them – you are a representative of that company. Especially if you’re someone who’s predominantly featured on television. news or radio. We’ve seen these sorts of celebrities fired for things they’ve done privately (affairs, DUI’s, domestic violence, etc) that had nothing to do with their ability to do their job. But because their behavior reflected poorly on whichever company they happened to work for, there was a parting of the ways.
So when ESPN decided to fire Curt Schilling for sharing an anti-LGBT meme on Facebook, they were well within their legal right to do so. In no way – at all – did they “violate” Schilling’s First Amendment rights.
Let me put it like this: Let’s say a different well-known employee at ESPN was fired after they publicly shared a racist meme and announced they were a member of the KKK. Is that person legally allowed to share that meme and be a member of the KKK? Of course. But that doesn’t mean ESPN has to continue to employ that individual who represents their company.
This is the same exact thing.
The problem here is, among a good section of Americans (mostly conservatives), their views on the LGBT community are so draconian and outdated that they don’t view anti-LGBT speech as “hate speech” – but it most definitely is. Though because these bigots continue to hold onto views about homosexuality that are quickly going extinct (even among many conservatives who are becoming more accepting of the LGBT community with each passing year) they seem to believe that it should be acceptable to spout off anti-LGBT hate speech whenever they want without facing any sort of repercussions for doing so.
Well, those people are wrong.
While some continue to hold on to these woefully outdated beliefs, whether they like it or not, those days are over. So these individuals can either embrace progress, or be the part of history we’ll look back upon with shame and embarrassment that people clung on to such bigotry and ignorance.