Seattle Mariners catcher Steve Clevenger tweeted something someone didn’t like. He lost his job because of it. Colin Kaepernick kneels for the national anthem and he pockets $16 million a year for sitting on the bench (He sits for the song for free).
Welcome to America, 2016.
”Black people beating whites when a thug got shot holding a gun by a black police officer hahaha,” Clevenger tweeted. “Shit cracks me up! Keep kneeling for the anthem!” He labeled Black Lives Matter and the president “pathetic,” expressing his opinion that the people involved in the Charlotte riots deserve to be locked up “like animals.”
Harsh stuff. But athletes, as Colin Kaepernick’s defenders incessantly insist, retain a right to their opinion. Okay, okay, so they didn’t really mean it. They meant: Athletes retain a right to their opinion if it’s also my opinion.
“I’m really stunned that he was suspended for the season,” Jemele Hill announced on ESPN’s His & Hers on Friday. “The Seattle Mariners, they came out immediately, denounced his comments, said, ‘This is not what the organization stands for.’ But I guess I was sort of pleasantly surprised. Am I wrong for feeling that way?”
A guest host, Jorge Sedano, seconded that emotion. “I’m pleasantly surprised because we need to out fools like this,” Sedano said of the suspension. “That’s just the reality of what we’re doing today.”
Colin Kaepernick’s cheering section cheering the catcher’s suspension for speech illustrates the mental gymnastics journalists play to toe the company line, which, as Curt Schilling and Mike Ditka could tell you, runs in a leftward direction in Bristol, Connecticut. ESPN, again, outs itself as the worldwide leader in hypocrisy.
Herbert Marcuse outlined this depends-whose-ox-is-being-gored mindset in “Repressive Tolerance,” a phrase he used to describe and denounce what most people regard as simple live-and-let-live tolerance. In this 51-year-old essay, the communist college professor championed a concept he called “liberating tolerance,” which meant “intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left.”
The concept caught-on on college campuses. Now sports journalists, who hail from many of those same bastions of “liberating tolerance,” push, as Nat Hentoff put it on a book cover, “free speech for me, but not for thee” as well. In other words, people who make their living off their opinion want to deny another man his living because of his opinion.
Sure, the catcher expressed himself, as catchers sometimes do, harshly. But it’s not as though a negligible number of people think little of the president, want Charlotte’s looters and thugs jailed, regard those kneeling for the national anthem as disgraceful, and express confusion about why a black policeman shooting a black ex-con inspires a mob to go on a violent rampage against whites. Should they all lose their jobs too?
Tens of millions of Americans believe what Steve Clevenger believes. They just don’t own the Seattle Mariners—or ESPN.
Don’t look anytime soon for the latter’s 30 for 30 documentary chronicling the day the Seattle Mariners put a muzzle on a guy accustomed to wearing a catcher’s mask. The story hits the network as an inconvenient truth. But Time coverboy Kaepernick’s characterization as speaking truth to power continues as he enjoys the full support, and a paycheck rivaling Tom Brady, from his team and all the fawning from the Fourth Estate.
Not everyone enjoys free speech. For Steve Clevenger, his speech cost $33,868. That’s a big sacrifice to a guy making the league minimum. To Colin Kaepernick, that’s what he gets paid for every 90 seconds he holds a clipboard.
Will the real John Peter Zenger please stand up?