Schilling pays the price of free speech

Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, a controversial righty on and off the mound, has opinions and is not shy about sharing them.

Even playing here in the bluest of states, Schilling hitched his wagon to the presidential campaigns of George Bush, at the time being challenged by favorite son John Kerry, and John McCain, running against overwhelming support in Massachusetts for Barack Obama. Being a key cog in bringing home the first World Series trophy in nearly 90 years gets you some cachet.

But the conservative lightning rod apparently reached his limit with his employer, ESPN, which fired him after he posted a picture of a less-than-attractive crossdresser and a comment associating it with his opposition to the fight over transgender access to public accommodations.

The canning of Schilling has, predictably, brought the controversy into the larger field of public debate and posed an interesting question: Does it say more about Schilling and his old-school world view or the Worldwide Leader in Sports’ intolerance for positions contrary to inclusiveness?

For Schilling, it was three strikes and out. Last year, he was suspended and removed from the prestigious Sunday Night Baseball telecasts and the playoffs for tweeting a meme comparing Muslim extremists to Nazi sympathizers. He returned this season as a studio analyst and a member of the Monday night broadcast.

In March, during a radio interview in Kansas, Schilling said Hillary Clinton should be “buried under a jail somewhere” for the allegations about her using a personal server to email confidential State Department information. ESPN did not take action on that one but decided the meme about so-called “bathroom bills” around the country was the last straw.

But what responsibility does ESPN share here? It’s not like Schilling’s views were known only to a handful of intimates. Give him a keyboard or a microphone and Schilling just can’t hold himself back. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for and in ESPN’s case, they got an outspoken political conservative who doesn’t feel compelled to restrict his views to what goes on between the lines.

But ESPN has a bunch of those types, except many espouse views on the other end of the spectrum. This is the network that selected Caitlyn Jenner to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at last year’s ESPYs show.

Some have paid consequences, though losing their job is not one of them. Stephen A. Smith, one of the leading voices on ESPN in support of Black Lives Matter, received a short suspension for suggesting victims of domestic violence have to take some responsibility for the actions of their assailants. Howard Bryant, a former Boston Herald columnist and leading voice on racism in sports, was suspended but kept his job after being arrested on domestic violence charges and assaulting a police officer in western Massachusetts. Baseball guru Keith Law had his Twitter privileges temporarily revoked for getting in spat with Schilling over evolution, which Schilling insists is an unproven theory.

Schilling doubled down on his position by posting a lengthy defense on his 38 Pitches blog blaming his detractors for looking to be offended. He insisted he’s no racist, homophobe, or transphobe, just someone who merely reposted a meme somebody else had already put up, failing to understand adding his own comments made it his own. His family, including his wife and son, also took to social media to call out the media for jumping on something posted on a personal Facebook page, again failing to recognize that the post was made “public” in a way for all to see before it was deleted.

Herald sports columnist Steve Buckley, who came out as gay a couple years back with little drama after decades of covering Boston sports, talked with Schilling about the controversy and found him to be unapologetic and thoroughly confused by the backlash, blaming it on the “black hole of social media.” Buckley says it’s a case of the guy just not getting it.

“And that’s my big problem with all this: It wasn’t the black hole of social media that got Schilling into trouble,” writes Buckley. “It was Schilling. He re-posted somebody’s grotesque caricature of a transgender person, and in doing so he stepped away from being the person who told me he’d embrace an openly gay teammate.

In an interesting side story, one of ESPN’s MLB editors is a transgendered former sportswriter, Christina Kahrl, a voting member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and one of the founders of the data geek favorite Baseball Prospectus. That may be one of the things the Disney-owned network had in mind when it released the statement touting itself as an “inclusive company” when it announced Schilling’s firing.

But in a bit of irony, just hours after firing Schilling, ESPN posted a meme on its Facebook page of NFL Houston Texans’ star J.J. Watt that read, “If people don’t like what I’m doing, they should just unfollow me.” ESPN took the advice and unfriended Schilling. Will viewers do the same to them?

–JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL 

Gov. Charlie Baker says people should use the restroom they feel comfortable using. (MassLive) It’s yet another hint that he will not veto a transgender rights bill.

The Supreme Judicial Court orders the state Retirement Board to give former speaker Sal DiMasi back his $127,000. (State House News)

Environmental groups give Baker a middling grade. (MassLive)

A Globe editorial voices support for a House budget proposal that would boost wages for nursing home aides.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is supportive of the city charging $500 a day to rent Faneuil Hall, a rent that is far less than what other venues in Boston charge. (CommonWealth)

Not picked up by the City Hall dashboard: A Mattapan man who was hired as a parking meter collector despite a drug indictment but then fired when he was charged with pocketing $400 of quarters was then hired last month to work at a city animal shelter. He was relieved of that job yesterday, after the Herald reported on his municipal payroll staying power. (Boston Herald)

Braintree is considering becoming the next town to issue non-criminal fines for underage drinking. (Patriot Ledger)

Federal and state investigators are probing whether asbestos and other hazardous materials were dumped at the Pacific Mills worksite in Lawrence. (Eagle-Tribune)

A new roadblock for Boston’s IndyCar race came with a vote by the city’s conservation commission requiring the backers to obtain a permit to build in wetlands. (Boston Herald)

A Southbridge Board of Health member resigns after swearing at a resident who raised concerns about pollution from a landfill. (Telegram & Gazette)

CASINOS

A prominent Boston real estate attorney won’t be allowed to testify at the Wynn Resorts land case trial, but the jury will listen to a tape of his appearance before a grand jury nearly two years ago. (CommonWealth)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A Gloucester Times editorial calls on Secretary of State John Kerry and the Massachusetts congressional delegation to intervene in a lobster dispute between Sweden and the United States.

Term limits don’t lead to more women in politics. (Governing)

ELECTIONS

The Democratic race in a nutshell: Bernie Sanders draws huge crowds; Hillary Clinton draws more votes. (Boston Globe)

Let the GOP delegate jockeying begin: Politico has a run down of the run-up to next weekend’s caucuses where state Republicans will select 27 of the 42 delegates for the party’s national convention in Cleveland.

One-time Ted Kennedy aide Will Keyser, who served as Charlie Baker‘s chief strategist for his winning 2014 campaign, will join Baker’s campaign finance committee. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Roxbury is an island on its own, the only spot in Boston not serviced by Amazon‘s same-day Prime delivery service. (Boston Globe)

Uber has settled class action suits in California and Massachusetts that forces the ride-hailing company to make concessions in dealing with drivers but maintaining them as independent contractors. (New York Times)

Comments by the director of the FBI suggest the agency paid at least $1.3 million to hack the iPhone of one of the shooters in the San Bernardino spree killing. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

Gov. Charlie Baker has announced a new program that can save as much as $5,000 off the cost of a bachelor’s degree for qualified Massachusetts community college students who transfer to one of the state’s four-year schools to complete their degree. (State House News Service)

The president of Cape Cod Community College wants to arm campus police. (Cape Cod Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

US suicide rates are the highest in 30 years. (New York Times)

TRANSPORTATION 

News you’d expect: Uber’s Boston general manager decries a proposed ban on ride-hailing service at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A study commissioned by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Partnership says the state’s consumers could save millions and reduce carbon emissions if more power was imported from large-scale hydro and land-based wind sources. (State House News Service)

US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz hails the Paris climate agreement being signed today. (Boston Globe)

Though he has loudly celebrated GE‘s headquarters move to Boston, Gov. Charlie Baker says he sides with the federal Environmental Protection Agency in its ongoing battle with the company over cleanup of the Housatonic River in Western Mass. that the GE polluted for decades with toxic PCBs. (MassLive)

Who are the winners and losers in the decision by Kinder Morgan to abandon its pipeline project? (Boston Globe)

The state has filed suit against the private operator of Plymouth‘s wastewater treatment plant, claiming the company failed to properly maintain the plant which resulted in a 10-million gallon raw sewage spill that damaged shellfish beds. (Patriot Ledger)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The White House is honoring Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello for his treat-not-imprison angel program for drug addicts. (Gloucester Times)

Police in Lawrence and Haverhill are targeting a drug trade catering to residents of New Hampshire. (Eagle-Tribune)

MEDIA

The Berkshire Eagle is returning to local ownership. (Berkshire Eagle)

The former publisher of the now-defunct Boston Courant launches a new neighborhood weekly publication, the Boston Guardian. (Boston Globe)

PASSINGS

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called Life.” The artist once and always known as Prince has died at the age of 57. (U.S. News & World Report) The state pays its respects by shining purple lights from the Zakim Bridge, South Station, and the glassy new Government Center MBTA station. (Boston Globe) Renee Graham once had a 90-minute interview with the music icon, and he didn’t disappoint. (Boston Globe)