EDITORIAL: Freedom of speech comes with consequences
The First Amendment to the U.S. Bill of Rights could not be more clear.
"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech."
That statement guarantees the right of every American citizen to say or write what he or she wants without fear of reprisal from the government.
While the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, however, it does not guarantee freedom from consequences.
Every person is accountable for the words that he or she says or writes.
Curt Schilling recently learned that lesson the hard way.
Schilling is a familiar figure to baseball fans here in York County. He pitched for both the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies, which just happen to be the two most popular major league teams among area fans. He won World Series titles with both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox.
His "bloody sock" win with the Red Sox in the Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees has become an iconic moment in baseball history.
During his 20-year big league career, he won 216 games and became known as one of the best big-game pitchers ever — a borderline Hall of Famer.
He also became known for his outspoken opinions.
His willingness to offer candid viewpoints quickly made him attractive as a broadcaster, and after his career ended, he landed a job at ESPN as a baseball analyst.
There was just one problem. Schilling didn't limit his frank convictions to what occurred on the diamond.
He also became well known for consistently and publicly espousing his conservative stances on political and social issues.
As an American, he has every right to do so.
As an employee, however, he has to be prepared to deal with possible fallout from his employer.
The final straw for ESPN came about a week ago when Schilling weighed in on social media in support of North Carolina's controversial transgender law. Known as the "bathroom bill," the law bans individuals from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex.
ESPN fired Schilling after he shared a meme of an overweight man dressed as a woman on Facebook with the caption: "LET HIM IN! To the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!”
Underneath, Schilling shared his own comment. "A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. 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."
Some conservatives immediately jumped to Schilling's defense, claiming that ESPN was denying Schilling his right to freedom of speech.
ESPN, however, is not a government entity, and therefore it can't take away Schilling's freedom of speech rights. What it can do, however, is take away his job with the company.
ESPN is a business with a well-known corporate philosophy for inclusion on social issues. After all, during the 2015 ESPY Awards, ESPN presented Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner) with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
ESPN's progressive outlook on transgender issues couldn't have been more clear.
Schilling had to know that when he made his latest assertion about the North Carolina law.
He also had to know that it would likely put his job in jeopardy.
Now Schilling is without a broadcasting job, but he has become a hero in the conservative community. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz came to his defense. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Schilling land a new gig with a conservative news outlet, such as Fox.
It would absolutely be within Fox's rights to hire him.
Just as it was completely within ESPN's rights to fire him.
That's the American way,