Ethics Mystery: What Was So Wrong With Curt Schilling’s Muslim Tweet?


ESPN pulled former baseball pitching star Curt Schilling from its Little League broadcast team yesterday after becoming aware of his tweet above, saying in a statement:

“Curt’s tweet was completely unacceptable, and in no way represents our company’s perspective. We made that point very strongly to Curt and have removed him from his current Little League assignment pending further consideration.”

Schilling then tweeted this apology: “I understand and accept my suspension. 100% my fault. Bad choices have bad consequences and this was a bad decision in every way on my part.” This appears to be a #1 on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale...“An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.” 

If I had delivered it, however, it might have been a #7: “A forced or compelled version of 1-4, in which the individual (or organization) apologizing may not sincerely believe that an apology is appropriate, but chooses to show the victim or victims of the act inspiring it that the individual responsible is humbling himself and being forced to admit wrongdoing by the society, the culture, legal authority, or an organization or group that the individual’s actions reflect upon or represent.”

What was it exactly that Schilling’s tweet showed, implied, suggested or stated that was” completely unacceptable,  in no way represent ESPN’s  perspective, and that justified his employer’s action? Curt Schilling is an inquisitive, politically active and opinionated man, and has always annoyed sportswriters because 1) he’s openly conservative 2) he’s a devout Christian, and isn’t shy about talking about it, 3) he can write and speak coherently and was capable, while playing, of challenging their criticism, and 4) he’s a lot smarter than most of them. I am assuming in this inquiry that nothing in Schilling’s contract or agreement with ESPN restricted his right to express non-sports opinions on his own time.

Here are some possibilities:

A. ESPN thinks his statistics are wrong and misleading.

Verdict: Ridiculous. None of their business, and if the statistics he cited are controversial or dubious, so what? His point was that small minorities of both the German population in Nazi Germany [ Aside: My father would have challenged that assumption as a by-product of the fact that, as he used to say, “There were no Nazis in Germany after we beat them! Every German says it was those other people who were the problem, and they they hated Nazis. Isn’t that amazing?]” and current Islam were dangerous, radical extremists. Are WWII combat veterans at ESPN offended at the German statistic, as my father would be? I doubt that. Do they think there are more radical Muslims? Fewer? Again, so what?

B. ESPN challenges the comparison between radical Islam and Nazis.

Verdict: If so, ESPN is wrong.  I could make an argument that ISIS is worse than the Nazis, but OK, let’s say its a bit of a hyperbole. So what? It sure isn’t that far off.

C. It’s an insult to Muslims.

Verdict: But it’s not. It’s a fair and accurate point regarding radical Muslims. If anything, the statistic defends Muslims.

D. It’s political.

Verdict: If that’s what makes the tweet unacceptable, ESPN is unfair. Was Schilling previously told that he had to avoid tweeting his political views while working for ESPN? If not, he was well within his rights, and his opinion, while flamboyantly expressed, was objectively inoffensive.

E. It’s political and implicitly critical of the Obama policy regarding radical Islam.

Verdict: Also unfair. First, ESPN is suspending employees for implied political opinions now? Second, criticizing national policy is every American’s right, and Schilling’s implied point is responsible and does not embarrass ESPN in any legitimate way.

F. ESPN wanted to make an example of Schilling to warn employees not to focus attention on the network regarding non sports matters.

Verdict: If this is it, the punishment was too harsh. A warning and a memo to the staff would have been appropriate.

G. Schilling was broadcasting the Little League World Series, and  should not have associated himself with images of Hitler and discussions of terrorism while employed in covering children.

Verdict “Think of the children”? This might be it, though it doesn’t explain what in the tweet opposes ESPNs “perspective.”

H. The tweet is politically incorrect.

Verdict: If this is it, ESPN is run by morons. What is politically incorrect about making legitimate historical comparisons? Pointing out that most Muslims are not terrorists? Reminding Germans that their country started WWII and engages in genocide? This may be a Niggardly Principles episode, in which the tweet seems to be critical of Muslims if you don’t read it carefully or are mentally deficient. Writes Dylan Gwinn:

“There is nothing factually inaccurate with the message of the tweet. It in no way compares “Muslims” to Nazis. It compares the number of Muslim “extremists” to the number of German extremists, with the point being that whether you accept the math or not, extremists need not have a numerical majority in any one country or religion in order to take control, and create catastrophic results for the rest of the world.Which, is absolutely true.”

But then, when did a statement being true every stop political correctness bullies from muzzling those who attempt to communicate it?ESPN has not suspended or punished Chris Carter, in contrast, for his speech advising NFL rookies how best to break the law. So I suppose this episode tells us what ESPN finds more or less acceptable.

Good to know, ESPN!

My best guess is that the reasons for ESPN’s action lie somewhere in alternatives E through H, which means that Schilling has been treated unfairly. Does anyone have a better explanation?


Pointer: Newsbusters

45 thoughts on “Ethics Mystery: What Was So Wrong With Curt Schilling’s Muslim Tweet?

  1. C, D, F, and H, plus I. Violation of Godwin’s Rule, and H. Cowardice. ESPN is, like most networks, run by people whose god is the bottom line and have all the backbone of chocolate eclairs (to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt). He made a colorful tweet that referenced the Nazis and invited the reader to draw an unfavorable (if absolutely apropos) comparison between Muslims and pre-WWII Germans. What he said was absolutely supported by the evidence. However, it’s not considered politically correct to say, it might draw attention to the network that has nothing to do with sports coverage, and everyone remembers this year’s lone wolf assaults. ESPN is both worried about losing audience AND, although they will never say it, they are TERRIFIED that some lone wolf angered by this tweet will shoot his way past bored, $8/hour unarmed security guards and blow their offices away.

  2. I’m pretty much in agreement with you here, but out of idle curiosity I googled stats for percentage of muslims who might be considered extremist.

    A Christian Science Monitor article challenged a 15-25% estimate with a counter-estimate of 0.1%. That’s a pretty extreme difference – roughly 150 orders of magnitude.

    Unburdened as I am by detailed knowledge, I wonder if you’re not rejecting Option A too harshly? A 7% approval rating of a nation-state from nationals of that state is hardly surprising. An equivalent rating, globally, of non-state sponsored terrorism, is extremely surprising. I’d have guessed it at under one percent.

    • Here’s another estimate. The fact is that nobody knows, but the exact number is obviously indeterminable, and any estimate is still a guess. The CS Monitor estimates that about 350,000 Muslims are likely radicals. That’s still enough to make Schilling’s observation valid. And really, what the hell business is it of ESPN to quibble about Schilling’s statistics in anon-sport, personal tweet, when all of the estimates are dubious?

      But A makes as much sense as the others, I suppose.

      • Actually the CS Monitor quote doesn’t say “likely radicals,” it says “prone to” or “at risk of…”

        It goes on to estimate that less than 1% of the “prone” estimate actually ends up being radicalized – quite different from “likely,” which would suggest greater than 50%.

        While I agree with Steve-O that ESPN doesn’t care much about precision, when something’s hundreds of orders of magnitude out of whack, I think maybe they have a point.

        • 2 orders of magnitude, not hundreds. a 100 fold difference is 2 orders of magnitude. A 100 orders of magnitude is the difference between 100% and 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001%.

    • Ben Shapiro did a bit a while back about the myth of the Muslim Extremist Minority, I don’t agree with his findings, I think he overshot. That said, his methodology was interesting. He gathered polls from Muslim majority nations on general topics… Things like people who leave the Muslim faith should be killed, people that blaspheme should be killed and support for terrorism.

      Anyway, in the most populated Muslim majority nations, he chose the poll that gave the most positive results for one of those criteria, aggregated the results, and assuming a Muslim population of 1.6 trillion people found that a majority of Muslims were radical, based on positive results to those three criteria.

      We can argue whether those criteria actually denote radicalism. We can dispute that the polls completely reflect Muslim values, because Muslim majority nations could have had results from people who were not Muslim. We can talk about the difference between what people say they will do and what they will actually do. What we can’t do it completely ignore the trend.

      • Well, that’s why the term radical and moderate are very very loose to begin with.

        For example, a hypothetical:

        Ideology A says:
        1) kill everyone who Won’t convert to ideology A
        2) torture people until they convert to ideology A
        3) threaten people until they concert to ideology A
        4) give money to the poor

        Ideology B says:
        1) try only to associate witb people of ideology B
        2) convince other people that ideology B is the preferred ideology and they should convert
        3) accept that others may not convert
        4) give money to the poor

        Now, to someone from ideology B, every platform of ideology A except the last seems radical. To someone inside ideology B, they may feel only points 1 and maybe 2 are radical. Perhaps to someone trying to be multicultural and tolerant from outside both ideologies, who is a moral relativist, decides, all ideologies have radicals, so points 1&2 from both ideologies are radical and points 3&4 are not, now we can all feel good about ourselves.

        It’s easy to look to the other way and pretend only point 1 of Ideology As is radical and the rest are held by moderates, but it doesn’t help when the vast majority of the ideology seems to skew towards what we would consider radical to begin with.

  3. Definitely “H” in any case. ESPN is already notorious for this. This would only be true to form for them. My umbrage is mainly at Schilling for not telling them to stick it in their ear and quitting immediately.

    • Because political correctness is at it’s core cowardly. An ideology that shakes in its boots at a ranting illogical feminist and wets its pants at borderline violent black activists is going to shit itself when faced by actually violent Muslim radicals who don’t just yell, who don’t just act pushy, but who kill those who don’t agree with them.

    • Because PC people bleed for persecuted minorities, and after 9-11 had time to percolate there was a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment in not only America, but the world. Why does that matter, you ask? Because of an inability to separate militant Islam from Islam as a whole. They are every bit as bigoted as the people they decry, but they do it from a self-appointed moral high ground.

      Actually… Thinking about it…. It’s amazing how similar the sides are in the bias behind their decisions.

      • Oh, it didn’t need time to percolate, take it from someone who saw the towers fall, and, but for a chance phone call, might have fallen with them. Everyone knew how it started and who was responsible in minutes. Bin Laden was the name on EVERYONE’S lips in an hour. You bet your last dollar there was a lot of anger at Islam and Islamic causes, because it sure as the devil wasn’t the Episcopalians who did that. That Friday, in fact, as we were getting ready for motion hearings, one lawyer I know who is Jordanian saw that I was still ashen-faced from the losses among people I knew. He offered the sensitive thought “Steve, I’m sorry for the victims, but…” It took all my discipline to grit my teeth and say “Today is NOT the day for the Palestinian bill of grievances, Al, leave it alone,” instead of slugging him.

        Not once did I hear any Muslim condemn that act as the act of unlawful war it was. It was “well, given what you did in Iraq and you’ve been helping Israel do this shouldn’t have come as a surprise,” or “Now you know what it feels like for the Palestinians every day,” or “the West has been giving us a hard time since 1097, but we strike back once and there’s a problem.” It also cost me a friendship with someone who was very into the Irish reunification cause and was still smarting over the Good Friday Agreement, who I called out on his hypocrisy over terror here (I’m part Irish but also part English, I hate the IRA and I think Michael Collins and Roger Casement were murderers).

        Yes, the PC people bleed for those who cry oppression, and they look the other way when those who cry oppression shoot the representatives of good order in the back or place bombs where the innocent will die or resort to every single cowardly tactic in the book to relieve their oppression. Of course then they look the other way when they turn those tactics against others, witness former lawyer Lynne Stewart’s ridiculous statement that it was perfectly all right to scrap due process to prevent a people’s revolution from coming undone.

  4. The difference is that it wasn’t just the 7% of the population in Germany that waged war on the rest of the world and supported Hitler. The majority of its citizens did so not just the 7% who belonged to the NAZI party.

    • They did so after the small percentage took control and forced many of them to. I don’t think this counters the point that a minority, even a tiny minority, can be deadly.

      My college was shut down for more than a month my freshman year when the student body was “radicalized” when police were sent in to remove SDS members who had taken over the administration building. The SDS had “vote” of those present in a crowd of students over whether or not its should “liberate” the building. The vote was overwhelmingly “no.” Then six of the losers took over the building anyway.

        • You and I are not in disagreement, and that was also my father’s point—he resented any Germans alive during that period to his dying day, wouldn’t but German cars, and regarded them all as unrepentant enemies. Everyone is accountable, but that’s still not Schilling’s point, nor mine about the SDS. A small percentage, using group loyalties, radicalizes the larger moderate group by forcing a “them or us” confrontation.

          • And this is where Shapiro’s numbers are valuable. A large plurality of Muslims worldwide believe that what the jihadi fundamentalists are doing is (perhaps) regrettable and undesirable, but necessary. They wouldn’t do anything like that to anyone they knew personally, but they’re okay with the fact that it’s being done.

            As far as I’m concerned, Schilling’s comparison hit the truth square in the bullseye.

  5. The reason he was suspended was a person is not allowed to say any Muslim is a terrorist. You can’t even say the guys who shot up all the Charlie Hebdo people and the people in that Jewish deli in Paris are terrorists. Absolutely bizarre.

    • “You can’t even say the guys who shot up all the Charlie Hebdo people and the people in that Jewish deli in Paris are terrorists.”

      Sure you can. You just did, and I agree with you. That’s at least two of us.

  6. It also depends on what you mean by radicals. In the ICI poll in England, 40% of Muslims wanted Sharia law in England, 20% sympathized with the most recent suicide bombers, but only 1% stated that they supported the most recent suicide bombing. Only 40% opposed instituting Sharia law in England.

    The Pew research study found that a large majority of Muslims support the idea of Sharia law in their country. In the countries surveyed, between 40% and 75% of Muslims feel that Sharia law should apply to non-Muslims. Those who say that suicide bombing in defense of Islam is often/sometimes justified ranged from 3-40% depending on the country (18% in Maylasia , 29% in Egypt, and 9% in the US).

    If you think that Muslims who feel that Muslim authorities should have a strong say in how government operates (even in a democracy), they you might think that 80% of Muslims are radical. If you think that forcing non-Muslims to submit to Sharia law is radical, then you might think over 20% of Muslims are radical. If you think supporting suicide bombings to defend Islam indicates a radical Muslim, then you might decide only 5% are radical. If you think just supporting the idea of suicide bombers often isn’t radical enough, you might think only 1-2% are radical.

    It just depends on what you think radical is. Oh, and if you expect Muslims to consider homosexuality and abortion as acceptable, then you may feel that 80% of Muslims are radical.

    • NOT Shapiro…it’s these numbers from Pew that I was thinking of in my comment above. Combine these widespread attitudes with the outsized influence of the jihadi contingent, and you’ve got a recipe for some really ugly times.

  7. 5% is what you need. 5% of the population needs to be mimimally organized, generally in agreement, discontent enough, and willing to impose their agreement on others and energetic/militant, for that a minorty of the population to impose it’s political will on the rest, as long as the other 95% are content/complacent with the status quo. The other 95%, by layers, will be whittled into concentric circles around that 5% so that no subset of the 95% will ever energize the remaining 95% to stop the determined 5%.

    It’s not that outside that 5% core, you suddenly have complete moderates & “apostates”.

    You have another ring of about 10-15% that say “I won’t engage in the violence of he 5% myself, but I may provide them comfort cuz I kinda like them”

    Outside thag ring, you get another 20-25% that say “I won’t provide them comfort, but I won’t oppose them either.”

    Outside that ring you get about half the population that ranges from- “I hope someone else deals with this problem” to “I don’t like these guys, but they seem unstoppable” to “I will oppose these guys but I feel alone”.

    That is a general rule of thumb in ALL cultural movements that seek to guide the larger community towards a different focus.

    So yes, 5% of Muslims being radical + acting on it / supporting it, IS a concern. Because the other 95% are not actively opposing it, that means those concentric rings of complacency or affinity present. That IS concerning.

  8. I think the most cogent thing that ESPN could criticize is that this is just another piece of internet cruff that makes their announcer, and by extension the network, look unprofessional. (While Schilling’s meme is far more insightful than most, a hotdog is more insightful than a majority.)

    Internet “memes” are not a particularly useful form of communication. Most are benign pictures of cats, some say something clever, and others think they say something clever. They promote simplistic thinking.

    An acquaintance of mine posted what he seemed to think was a knee slapper… It had a picture of an elephant fetus, but was captioned “This is not a human! (If that makes you mad, you are a knee jerk idiot!)” — [‘Ha! What idiots those prolifers are! – Cannot even tell an elephant fetus from a human! (Not that a fetal human is a person mind you…). Ha!’]

    This form of communication has been tainted. Post like the one above this encourage blind partisan division. They start with the a priori assumption that the other side is totally idiotic, and mock a strawman view of their beliefs. The other side, usually not totally idiotic, sees right through this an assumes the other side most be idiotic. The divide between views appears insurmountable, and nothing gets done.

    Insightful posts, by use of the meme format, are tainted as well. In isolation, comparing 0.1%/7%/etc of Muslims to 5% of Germans might promote a bit of thinking. However, this is internet; every school principal is Hitler, at least on middle school boys bathroom/Facebook walls (“Hitler” might even attempt to suspend such boys, missing the irony entirely…). The Hitler card is simply over played, and without insightful commentary, people see a meme, assume that it is idiotic, and shut their brains down. Trying to make a serious point in a few words and pictures, in a sea of brain eating a-meme-bas is futile.

    ESPN may not be concerned at all with the content of the post, but the appearance of unprofessionalism in turning to a medium far too often used to pass fart jokes. Whether this is an attempt to clean up civil discourse among its personalities, or excessive censorship, I am not certain.

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