“Proportionality” is an ethical principle, one that has been recognized for centuries. In the Josephson Institute’s “Six Pillars of Character,” it is included under the “pillar” of Fairness. Plato explained that he concept of ethical retributive justice must be committed to three principles:
- That those who commit wrongful acts deserve to suffer a proportionate punishment;
- That it is intrinsically morally good if a legitimate authority gives such wrongdoers the punishment they deserve; and
- That it is morally impermissible to intentionally to punish the innocent, or to inflict disproportionately large punishments on wrongdoers.
This brings us to the case of Thom Brennaman, play-by-play broadcaster for the Cincinnati Reds and the son of retired and revered Marty Brennaman, also a veteran baseball announcer. Last night, Brennaman the Younger was caught on an open mic describing someplace as the “one of the fag capitals of the world” after the Fox Sports Ohio feed returned from a commercial break in the top of the seventh inning in the first game of a doubleheader at Kansas City. This led the Reds to pull Brennaman off the air after the fifth inning of the second game, and the announcer was quickly suspended.
The team quickly released a statement:
Note “horrific.” That “horrific” word can be heard near the beginning of the famous song above from “Company,” lyrics by Broadway icon Stephen Sondheim (who is gay). To my knowledge, no audience members have ever walked out of a performance upon hearing it. Sondheim, now in his eighties, did recently concoct an alternate lyric for those productions that are determined to be politically correct. He’s a prudent man, I guess. I wish he hadn’t.
The word is apparently so horrific that I had to search all over the web to find out what it was. Most accounts said that the announcer used an “anti-gay slur,” and left it to readers’ imagination what was said. This is crummy, craven, virtue-signaling and incompetent journalism. If the story is about the uproar over a word, a news reporter is obligated to say what the word is. When the ESPN report only said that the word used was “horrific,” I thought it was something I had never heard before. It’s a slur, that’s all. It’s a word.
Was Brennaman’s over-heard phrase evidence of bias? Possibly, but certainly not unequivocally. I have heard gay friends use the term many times themselves—in jest, for effect, ironically, or to insult someone else of similar orientation. Is it evidence of “discrimination”? If it is, it is certainly weak evidence: discrimination requires action.
Brennaman’s gaffe is definitely evidence of carelessness and unprofessional conduct, justifying a suspension. The Reds, however, sound like they are going to fire him.
Is that proportional? Despite all of the caterwauling and virtue-signaling it triggered, Brennaman’s remark didn’t cause actual harm to anyone but Brennaman. Fox Sports Ohio said in another statement that it endorsed the suspension because Brennaman’s remark was “hateful, offensive and in no way reflects the values” of the network.
Offensive? Sure. “Hateful”? Prove it.
I would not be shocked to find out that Brennaman was gay himself. Never mind: his use of a taboo word in an unknown context suggests that he may be guilty of WrongThink. In the current culture of the ascendant Left, that’s sufficient to justify his destruction. No real harm to others is necessary.
Do we really like this brutal society we are flirting with?
The announcer, of course, quickly issued a desperate apology before he was pulled off the game, saying on the air,
“I made a comment earlier tonight that I guess went out over the air that I am deeply ashamed of. If I have hurt anyone out there, I can’t tell you how much I say from the bottom of my heart, I am very, very sorry.”
Then, after calling a Reds home run, Brennaman added: “I don’t know if I’m going to be putting on this headset again,” and apologized to the Reds, Fox Sports and his coworkers.
It wasn’t a great apology; the “If I have hurt anyone out there” line places it firmly in Category 9 on the Apology Scale,“Deceitful apologies, in which the wording of the apology is crafted to appear apologetic when it is not (“if my words offended, I am sorry”).” He was apologizing on the fly, so I suspect what he really intended was a Category 7 apology, “….forced or compelled… 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 .”
At least he didn’t say that the remark “isn’t who he is.”
My guess is that Brennaman will be fired, and that he and his family will suffer terribly from this episode, while social justice warriors puff up their chests with pride. Mercy? Forgiveness? Compassion? Nah. Golden Rule? What Golden Rule?
In the middle of the George Floyd Freak-out, as blacks activist are taking full advantage of society’s leave to destroy statues, reputations, careers and lives for perceived evidence of racial bias, and not long after #MeToo empowered women to do the same to sexists and harassers (unless they are running for President against Donald Trump), the LGTBQ community is not going to take a pass on exacting its own pound of flesh when the opportunity presents itself. The message will be “We’re here, we’re LGTBQ (the chant doesn’t rhyme any more), and we can destroy you if you displease us.” If the Reds try to bring Brennaman back to broadcasting baseball in “the Queen City,” they’ll get boycotts, petitions, and protests. The team, like the rest of baseball, has already shown its lack of fortitude by pandering to Black Lives Matter.
The cancellation of Thom Brennaman over a single word inadvertently broadcast during a baseball game is not proportional to the wrongdoing.
That means it is unethical.