In today’s world, what you say and do on social media is perhaps more important than what you say or do in person.
The notion certainly applies to former PR chief Justine Sacco, who tweeted before getting on a plane to South Africa that she hoped she didn’t get AIDs, and who—by the time she landed—had lost her job. This also applies to Former Marine Sgt. Gary Stein, who was discharged after nine years of service for posting a rant to Facebook, writing “Screw Obama. I will not follow all orders from him.”
For as much as we probably want to believe our social networks are private personal mouth-pieces that won’t come under scrutiny, it seems they are in a lot of ways a representation of not just ourselves, but those we associate with—including our employers. This reality is probably why ESPN felt it was appropriate to fire former Boston Red Sox pitcher and sports analyst Curt Shilling after he shared a transphobic post to his personal Facebook page.
Schilling has stated that he did not publish the post himself and has since taken it down, but ESPN nevertheless ended its relationship with the World Series winner. The decision was made after screen captures of the post—alluding to trans women’s use of gender appropriate restrooms—went viral. Despite the general controversy surrounding the issue, it probably didn’t help that Schilling made the post amid a firestorm of public attention surrounding several states’ discussions about transphobic and discriminatory bathroom laws.
The post itself suggested that current state legislation is necessary to prevent predators from taking advantage of the inclusive law and seeking out women, including wives and daughters. The controversial sentiment has been running rampant as of late, but it was Schilling’s comments that were perhaps most damning.
“A man is a man no matter what they call themselves,” the analyst wrote. “I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”
When speaking about Schilling’s removal, ESPN made no qualms about sharing exactly why Schilling was released from his contract: discriminatory comments.
“ESPN is an inclusive company,” the network wrote in a statement. “Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.”
Although some might argue that Schilling should have been reprimanded and given another chance, this was not the high-profile host’s first run-in with questionable cultural commentary. The network, which is owned by Disney—a company that has recently been quite vocal against anti-LGBT legislation—suspended Schilling last September for anti-Muslim comments he made over his Twitter.
After the news of his termination broke, Schilling took to his blog to share his feelings regarding the incident. They were not surprisingly in tune with his now-removed Facebook post. Titling the post The Hunt to be Offended, Schilling begins it by writing “Let’s make one thing clear right up front. If you get offended by ANYTHING in this post, that’s your fault, all yours.”
He went on to express that the opinion was and should only be interpreted as entirely his.
“My opinion, 100% mine, and only mine. I don’t represent anyone but myself here, on Facebook, on twitter, anywhere.”
The sentiment reveals that Schilling is one of the remaining few who still believe their public social media accounts are solely representative of them, rather than the many people who can view said account. Unfortunately for him, Disney and ESPN don’t agree.