I'll warn you in advance, if you are easily offended, you should stop reading this column right now.
Seriously. Stop reading it. Because you are going to get offended.
Honestly, I'm not sure what's in the column that is offensive. But I've come to learn in recent weeks, just about anything written or said will be deemed offensive by someone. And it doesn't matter whether the words written or said are worthy of offense. And it doesn't matter if those claiming to be offended truly are. And it doesn't matter if the amount of people offended are outweighed greatly by those who are not.
Regardless of all that, the decision of those in charge will be to suspend those saying, writing, or acting upon their opinions.
So please continue reading at your own risk. And in the inevitable event that what I write does in fact offend you, please respond with your letter demanding my firing or suspension quickly. Because I really hate preseason football. So I could use the vacation now.
Blame me for just wanting to keep up with the Joneses. It's been well over a year since people have called for me to be fired or suspended after offending someone. I'm starting to feel left out. Back in February of 2013 I had the audacity to voice my opinions on gun control in the wake of Sandy Hook. Some self-proclaimed "Second Amendment defenders" wanted me to lose my job. I found it humorous that those insisting I needed to be fired in the name of defending the Second Amendment of the constitution were so willing to ignore the First Amendment. But that was a long time ago. And I feel like I'm being left behind.
So let's get to the offensive stuff. Since early summer the Internet has been clogged with stories about those in the media being suspended or fired because of things they've said publicly.
In early July, Anthony Cumia of the "Opie and Anthony" show was fired for tweeting things that were deemed to be racially insensitive. Later that month, here at WEEI, Kirk Minihane was suspended for comments he made regarding sideline reporter Erin Andrews.
Those were issues that largely were generated from good ole-fashioned word policing. People claiming to be offended did so on the grounds that the word choice was personally hurtful, even if they weren't of the gender or race being criticized. Everyone has their own boundaries and definition of "within good taste." You can be the judge of both cases on your own. Our radio company was with Kirk. Sirius was with Cumia. Be clear, though, in neither case were FCC boundaries violated. Yet the Word Police won in their complaints.
In my opinion what's substantially worse is what occurred to Stephen A. Smith recently at ESPN. He was suspended for a week after making some comments about Ray Rice's domestic violence case on the "First Take" program. Smith clumsily (by his own admission) attempted to articulate his belief that women have to be careful and avoid provoking incidents of domestic violence.
The way Smith stated his argument was interpreted as victim blaming. Maybe it was. If that's what he meant, I disagree with him. Strongly. But he's entitled to his opinion. Or at least he should be. Or at least he was hired to give it. Despite that reality, he even taped an apology for his comments. But ESPN suspended him anyway.
That's even worse than word policing. That's thought policing. And that's scary. Handing out discipline to someone based on word choice deserves an eye roll. Suspending or firing someone hired to give an opinion based on the opinion they gave is a frightening commentary on where we are in society.
Yet ESPN allowed this debate to cross over from the realm of bothersome to moronic last week. The network suspended radio/TV personality Dan Le Batard for two days because he took out an ad on a billboard in Akron with a picture of two Miami Heat championship rings on it. It derisively said "You're welcome" to LeBron James after the basketball star (and ESPN-promoted icon) took his talents back to Ohio.
A suspension? For that? Why? There were no negative words, or pictures. There wasn't even anything ... well ... negative! At all. It was a jab in the ribs. A poke. A literal case of saying "The King" has no clothes. So what?
Yet ESPN is so acutely aware of its editorial content that this was somehow declared over a line. How come? Because a few people in northeast Ohio (perhaps specifically James and his agent) got pissed off?
Ooops, sorry. Sorry. I should've said "ticked off."
Ouch. That one is gonna cost me.
The finger-wagging four-letter network then suspended TV/radio host Max Kellerman for admitting he had an altercation with his (then) girlfriend 20 years ago. So you can't even cop to something you did wrong in the past anymore? Is this a retroactive punishment of some sort? I used to work for ESPN. Can I get suspended after the fact as well for something I did?
The ironic part is, in each case those people are in the opinion-giving business. They have been hired to give their opinion. In each case those opinions have ruffled feathers. And the hiring company has wound up suspending or firing them. If public backlash about an opinion results in negative consequences like that, people are just going to stop saying what they really think. And that changes discourse as we know it. We all will just end up spouting the same safe, homogenized, middle-of-the-road narratives to one another in an effort to get along with society even if the world in which we live needs to be shaken up. Sometimes a voice from left field is necessary to make us all talk out loud and ... God forbid ... think! Dare I say it, maybe a distasteful opinion from time to time inspires us to drum up thoughts on our own as opposed to absorbing the mainstream opinion through the osmosis of politically correct favorited retweets and Facebook likes.
There is an element of the Washington Redskins name-change debate to all of this. Have we really been offended in all (or any) of these examples? Or are we just acting like we are offended because we think it is socially enlightening to react in such a manner? And at what point do media companies begin to answer another difficult question: Why do we swim in the water of the opinion-making business if we can't handle choppy seas from time to time?
Thanks for reading. I'm sorry for whatever I said that offended whoever it is that has been offended. I look forward to doing it again after whatever vacation I am given. Be well.