CNN pundit Roland Martin has been suspended because of some Tweets he posted during the Super Bowl, in which he jokingly encouraged folks to smack the “ish” out of someone who gets excited about soccer star David Beckham and his H&M underwear ads. Almost immediately, others called him out on what they perceived to be homophobia and trivializing of anti-gay violence. Martin insisted that the source of his “comedy” wasn’t homophobia, but soccer, which he apparently doesn’t like and “cracks” on all the time.
As the brilliant Keith Boykin pointed out in his HuffPo article, “As you might expect from any medium that limits your posts to 140 characters, Twitter is not the best place for subtlety and nuance.” If Martin was in a position where he typed out the ill-advised joke without thinking it could seem homophobic, then he’s incredibly stupid. And should be fired for his stupidity and not his offensive Twitter posts.
What’s interesting about Martin’s faux pas is that it comes on the heels of the campaign by a group called One Million Moms, that is trying to get Ellen DeGeneres fired from being spokeswoman for JC Penny. The retail giant maintained its support for the talk show/comedienne and DeGeneres even had an unlikely supporter in Fox “News” personality, Bill O’Reilly. To the many uninformed (mostly Internet trolls), there is an equivalency – but as usual, it’s a false one…DeGeneres’ fire was being called for simply who she was – it wasn’t a particular action or statement she made, but simply because she’s gay; but with Martin, the call for his job comes from actual actions that make light of a serious problem: anti-gay violence.
But I have to agree with Boykin, I don’t think he should be fired over this, just as I believe JC Penny has the right to fire DeGeneres. Let me explain: private entities like department stores or cable channels can do what they want when hiring and firing – if they are concerned enough about a backlash they’ll cave. If CNN sees that enough people will raise a fuss, then Martin will definitely get a pink slip – and the same goes for DeGeneres who may also ushered to the door if sales drop as a result from the One Million Moms protest. Do I think the company would be right or fair to fire DeGeneres? Of course not, but right and fair aren’t always synonymous with legal.
In light of Karen Handel’s exit from Susan G. Koman for the Cure and the huge onslaught of bad publicity that the breast cancer suffered as a result from its bone-headed idea of defunding Planned Parenthood, both CNN and JC Penny have a self-interest in ensuring that whatever decision they make will net them the best kind of PR. In the end, it’s all about profit and revenue. And while I believe that both CNN and JC Penny are sincere in their pro-gay stances (at the moment), I’m not foolish or so naive that I believe that they wouldn’t reverse their decisions if it meant losing a significant amount of money.