Ethics Quiz: The Football Coach’s Tweet

Malone

Once again, I am 90% certain, maybe more, what the right answer should be, but also again, I’m close enough to the cusp to have “reasonable doubt,” or as they would say in the Chauvin trial, “Never mind!”

Chris Malone, an offensive line coach at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga (UTC), , was fired two days after he tweeted,

“Congratulations to the state GA and Fat Albert @staceyabrams because you have truly shown America the true works of cheating in an election, again!!! Enjoy the buffet Big Girl!! You earned it!!! Hope the money is good, still not governor!”

The school responded, through its athletic director,

“Last night, a totally inappropriate social media post by a member of our football staff was brought to my attention. The entire post was appalling. The sentiments in that post do not represent the values of our football program, our Athletics department or our University. With that said, effective immediately, that individual is no longer a part of the program.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today (as I head to my oral surgeon for the latest emergency…):

Was it ethical to fire him?

Conservative media is lining up with Malone, calling him the latest in a series of “blacklisted Americans” being “cancelled” for “criticizing a Democrat.” Is that really what’s happening here?

Blogger Robert Zimmerman writes, “Though Malone’s language was crude (though completely typical of almost all of Twitter’s childish commentary), it hardly rose to the level of ‘appalling’ as claimed by the school, unless of course the school and the administrators of its athletic department are partisan Democrats and are intolerant to any opinions that criticize the political party they support.”

That’s funny: I think the tweet is appalling (and as readers here know, the rationalization that it was typical of crude Twitter banter is not persuasive on Ethics Alarms), and I’m not a partisan Democrat, as you may have noticed. The tweet uses Abrams’ gender, race and weight in an ad hominem attack, unethical all. Take those away,and I’d agree with the coach’s lawyer, who said, in part, of the university, “As a public school, it cannot control what its employees say at social gatherings or on social media. It certainly cannot fire them for criticizing and mocking politicians.”

It can fire employees who embarrass their employers and raise legitimate questions about the caliber and character of its instructors. It happens that Abrams is a Democrat, but if the same ugly rhetoric were used by a college employee about a conservative Republican, the offense would be the same. (Whether the response would be the same is a separate question.)

If you are as dumb and inarticulate as the coach apparently is, and work for an educational institution, you have an obligation to shut up, at least in public forums.

59 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Football Coach’s Tweet

  1. I think it depends on whether he used an official account or his own. Either way, though, he should have kept it to substance-based criticism. Even calling somebody fat is probably ok, since that’s one of the last acceptable prejudices. He crossed the line with the race-based stuff, though, he HAD to know that was going to be trouble.

    • that’s one of the last acceptable prejudices

      So you’re saying that you know it’s actually wrong but somehow okay because he’s unlikely to face social sanction?

      • No valky, I’m saying he would have been more likely to get away with it if he hadn’t introduced the racial element. Making cracks about or insulting someone’s weight is wrong, at least as much as any other kind of insult, BUT, no one usually gets upset about it except the target. Everyone else just says lose the weight and you won’t be a target any more.

      • Steve can answer for himself, but if that question were asked of me, I’d say yes.

        The backlash to this is almost certainly going to be along party affiliation and racial axis, and we know that because Democrats writ large had no problem mocking the weight of people like Donald Trump or Chris Christie. I’m old enough to remember when Christie made it to the cover of TIME magazine, where they showed his profile in relief from the waist up and called him the “Elephant in the Room”.

        That’s not whataboutism… I agree, it’s not acceptable to shame people about their weight… But I’m also not going to listen to partisans as they discover their newfound respect for heavy people just as one of their golden idols gets the exact same treatment that they themselves have doled out for years.

        Either Jack or Robert Zimmerman was absolutely right when he said (I’m always confused with parenthesis inside a quote) “though completely typical of almost all of Twitter’s childish commentary”: Twitter is a cesspool. Do an exercise: Find a Tweet posted by a Senator, Any senator. Go through the replies until you find something objectionable. 1) You will. 2) It won’t take long.

        And I think that’s my basis for being put off by situations like this. What Malone posted is basically the exact same caliber of garbage tens of thousands of people tweet on the daily, these social mores are enforced almost entirely on the axis of political affiliation, and with all the consistency of a shorting bug zapper. Frankly, we would not be prepared to fire tens of thousands of people from their jobs for tweets like these, I don’t understand the eagerness to go after one. Because while I hate the idea of an online speech code generally, at least if we had a consistent and enforced standard for online communications, it might change the absolutely toxic culture of internet. Picking people to sacrifice at the alter of faux civility is just reality television; fiction with only a hint of the real, and almost designed so as to never deal with the problem while creating wreckage out of human lives.

        • Thanks HT for a thoughtful expose’ of the culture’s growing intolerance of all things not to their liking.
          It would be great if social media was primarily comments like yours. Unfortunately for many they wish to exemplify the Hobbesian nature of man.

  2. This quote came to mind: “I am not a role model. I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kid.”
    Barkley was wrong about being a role model. It’s not something one chooses; it comes with the territory. He was and is a role model, less so now, perhaps, than when he was playing.
    Likewise, Malone was a role model, whether he wanted to be or not, and in that role, he represented UTC, all the time, not just while coaching; such is the life of public figures.
    He failed in that role. I’d have fired him, too.

    • Apples and oranges. Charles Barkley was a player, who didn’t work with students as part of the job. Professional athletes are paid to play and to generate interest that sells tickets and ad time. Malone DID work with students as part of the job, and was at least as responsible for modeling what he expected from his players as other teachers were. As such, he should have zipped it this time out. His players make it into the NFL, then they can ignore what he said and showboat and misbehave and knock their wives around. However, it’s his job to teach them not to act like that on his watch.

      Like it or not, performers, athletic, musical, or otherwise, will get away with being jerky AS LONG AS they keep turning in good performances and filling the seats. Once they pass their peak, or they start to coast, then poor behavior is likely to bite them in the posterior, as teams, labels, agents, etc., decide they are more trouble than they are worth.

        • There is a significant difference between heroes and idols; many sports writers (and others) do not grasp the difference.

  3. Should we take into consideration he was the OFFENSIVE line coach?

    This guy does raise the question: How do you outlaw jerks? I just don’t think it’s possible.

        • This is another reason why sports and undergraduate schools should have nothing to do with each other. If this college didn’t have a football team, they wouldn’t have insufferable guys like this coach anywhere near the campus. College football remains the closest thing to a slave plantation in existence today. Ironically, I bet this guy works more closely with black guys than any white social justice warrior you can find anywhere.

  4. Jack wrote, “It can fire employees who embarrass their employers and raise legitimate questions about the caliber and character of its instructors.”

    I see an meandering ethical line in the sand here!

    Can’t this kind of reaction to constitutionally protected free speech specifically directed at a nationally known political public figure be used and abused my employers in a manner that literally puts a stranglehold on non work related personal free speech because employees will be in fear of loosing their livelihood? This can of reaction from an employer can easily be perceived as direct persecution for exercising a constitutionally protected right to free speech towards a nationally known political public figure. This kind of constitutionally protected free speech has absolutely nothing to do with the University.

    PERSECUTE

    Merriam-Webster
    To harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict specifically : to cause to suffer because of belief.

    Cambridge
    To treat someone unfairly or cruelly over a long period of time because of their race, religion, or political beliefs, or to annoy someone by refusing to leave them alone.

    Oxford
    Subject (someone) to hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of their race or political or religious beliefs.

    MacMillion
    To treat someone extremely badly, or to refuse them equal rights, especially because of their race, religion, or political beliefs.

    As Professor Turley points out (see below) there is an obvious politically motivated double standard in academia, and elsewhere, when it comes to free speech directed at political public figures.

    “Many academics routinely called Trump “fat,” “orange,” a “liar,” and other personal attacks but have no blowback from their universities. For example, Harvard Professor Lawrence Tribe (who President Biden just put on the Supreme Court commission) has routinely used juvenile and vulgar attacks against academics and political figures with opposing views, including myself. Tribe has called Trump a “terrorist” and supported a long litany of highly dubious criminal theories. He previously told CNN that “If you’re going to shoot him, you have to shoot to kill.” Tribe called Senator Mitch McConnell a “flagrant dickhead!” and loves to use Trump-like insults like “McTurtle” to refer to the Senator. He later ridiculed former Attorney General Bill Barr for his Catholic faith. His account has been described by critics as a “vector of misinformation and conspiracy theories on Twitter” where Tribe regularly engages in vulgar attacks on people holding opposing views. Tribe thrills his followers by referring to Trump as a “Dick” or “dickhead in chief.” Such slurs and invectives are all ignored when Tribe is offering consistent assurance that Trump can be prosecuted or impeached on an ever-expanding list of offenses. Indeed, the only time Tribe generated a modicum of criticism from the left was when he referred to the selection of an African American like Kamala Harris for Vice President as a merely “cosmetic” choice.”

    This kind of double standard can be found all over academia.

    I don’t support Chris Malone’s ad hominems directed at Stacey Abrams but I support his right to free speech, his right to write and say what he wants even if it’s hateful, and his human right not to be openly persecuted for exercising his free speech rights; I also support Chris Malone if he follows through with suing the the University. We condemn this kind of open persecution as being political persecution when it happens to people in other countries, why don’t we equally condemn it in the USA?

    “Was it ethical to fire him?”

    I think it was unethical to fire him for this even though they probably have some kind of legal right to do so. They certainly had other options to address a behavior that they may have seen as being an embarrassment to the University. Having a legal right to do something doesn’t make it ethical.

    The only statement and action that the University should have taken publicly was to state this, “The sentiments in that post do not represent the values of our football program, our athletics department or our university” which was actually a small part of their public statement. They should have ended their public involvement with that statement and kept any personnel discussions and/or actions private, which is customary.

    That said; if there is a verifiable paper trail of other work related statements, prior to this happening, that have raised legitimate questions about the caliber and character of this coach, this might have been the straw that broke the camels back, but if he hasn’t shown previous reasons to question the about the caliber and character of this coach then I think they went too far and they should be sued.

    • I’d fire him if he worked for my organization. Legally, I’d like to have a personal conduct clause in his contract. However, while his speech is protected, his ability to embarrass and harm his employer is not. Fairly or not the President is a white male and President (and Tribe is senile, and no longer teaching. And he has tenure).

      • Jack wrote, “Legally, I’d like to have a personal conduct clause in his contract.”

        If a possible employer had something that infringed on my individual rights while not at work in a written contract, I would demand that it be permanently stricken from the contract or I would not take the job.

        I did make a similar demand of a company that offered me a position me some years ago. After they offered me the job I read the contract (I actually read every word) and they had something in the contract that I did not approve of, they refused to strike it from the contract, I stood up and told them to find someone else for the position and walked out of the office.

        • Personal services contracts often have morals clauses in them, that say you can be fired for “acts of moral turpitude” such as lying, domestic violence, etc. That said, are all these contracts now going to require the parties to toe the woke line?

          • I think this confuses things…. Let’s take a step back and find a metaphor:

            Liz Cheney is on the outs. Democrats are in full spin cycle trying to weave the story that the reason Cheney is on the outs is because the party is still in love with Trump, and Cheney is consistent in her belief that Trump lost the election. That doesn’t make any sense for a couple of reasons:

            First…. Cheney was on the outs before the election was over, mostly because of her vote on the second impeachment… Which is still Trump adjacent, but let’s be real…. Those votes were absolutely egregious.

            Second… There are a whole lot of Republicans who say Trump lost the election, and the party hasn’t actually splintered into Pro- and Anti- Trump camps.

            Cheney is on the outs because she’s the third ranking Republican in the House, and her job is in part to keep the part on track from a narrative basis, and instead of doing that, she’s going on MSNBC and talking smack about her colleagues. Every word out of her mouth might even be true…. But for a person who’s job it is to steer narratives, unless her goal is specifically to do damage to her party, she’s absolutely inept and steering a narrative. More, no one is forcing her to give interviews to hostile media.

            My point, is that in response to “That said, are all these contracts now going to require the parties to toe the woke line?” I would say that we aren’t there yet. The people being caught up in these cancellations…. Or whatever you want to call them… I think we’re rushing headfirst into cringe with how that term is being used…. But most of the time, the people caught up in these cancellations probably wouldn’t be in trouble if they had chosen their words bette….

            Huh. Usually at a point where I realize I’m wrong I delete my comment, or fix it to reflect my new train of thought. This time…. I’m going to leave it up. But I realized that while being more articulate offers protection, there have been some really articulate people cancelled recently, and it doesn’t matter how reasonable they are. I’m thinking specifically about the teacher who while on a feild trip was asked a question about the use of the word “nigger” and then said the word in his response. The more articulate someone is, the less *likely* they are to fall afoul of woke censors, but the possibility of trouble is never zero, and these things tend to get worse before they get better, and while it’s encouraging to see Democrats rediscover the necessity of speech, we aren’t at bottom yet.

    • In my opinion; we the people do not loose our individual rights as private citizens outside the work place when we take a position with an employer regardless of whether the position is a position of leadership or not. Outside of the United States Military, an employer cannot legally dictate what the employee can and cannot say outside the work place and I think that firing an employee for constitutionally protected free speech made outside the work place is an infringement on their individual rights.

      I don’t think this free speech case falls under The Naked Teacher Principle.

        • Jack wrote, “His speech objectively reflects negatively on his employer.”

          There are lots of things that could be considered as objectively reflects negatively on his employer.

          What if the employee has political yard signs for Trump.

          What if the employee has bumper stickers for Trump?

          What if the employee denounces Black Lives Matter as being racist?

          What if the employee is a member of the GOP?

          What if the employee is a member of the NRA?

          What if the employee rides a Harley Davidson motorcycle on the weekends?

          What if the employee eats meat?

          What if the employee doesn’t eat meat?

          What if the employee is gay?

          What if the employee isn’t gay?

          What if the employee’s car isn’t electric?

          What if the employee goes to church on Sunday?

          What if the employee doesn’t go to church on Sunday?

          The list can go on and on.

          Honestly, how far should an employer be allowed to push this before it becomes unethical?

  5. The coach is an asshole, but this is quite clearly political speech. Political speech can get quite heated, especially in this day and age. This is why I was of the opinion that banning it from the workplace was acceptable.

    I think the slippery slope applies here, as where do you draw the line on what counts as offensive political speech? Some cases are quite cut and dry, like this one, but many are not. Cops are already getting fired for calling BLM terrorists, which they quite clearly are. That is political speech as well. BLM doesn’t like having it pointed out that burning buildings down, throwing explosives at cops, and killing people are terrorist actions. They call it offensive. If firing people for “offensive” political speech is justified, who gets to decide what counts as offensive?

      • Who gets to decide which parts are ad hominem attacks? How do you define what an ad hominem attack is. The context of the tweet is quite clearly political, mixed with insults. What counts as an insult and what counts as political speech. How do you, from a legal perspective, separate the two in clearly defined terms so that an even standard can be applied. I don’t think you can, especially in terms the left will not twist into indecipherable pretzels. If the terms cannot be clearly defined, the ethical properties, and legal properties, of a particular statement are dependent on personal opinion. Personal opinion isn’t a good enough criteria for me.

        • Huh? An ad hominem attack is a when an attack has nothing to do with the substance of a disagreement, and is based on a personal attack on the individual rather than the position. It’s not a subjective defintion—it’s objective, and pretty clear. Attacking someone based on the fact that they are black and fat (“Fat Albert”) as well as female is ad hominem, and inherently unethical. There is no political content in “you fat, black bitch!” which is what the tweet essentially said. That’s “appalling.” If you are ague like that, do it without making your employer party to it.

          • Yes, in this case there were quite clearly ad hominem attacks. I’m not disagreeing with that.

            What else can be considered an ad hominem attack, though. Is calling BLM a terrorist group an ad hominem attack? Is criticizing a black politician for her legislative decisions an ad hominem attack, even if no personal insults are used or mention of personal characteristics are made. If you call the decisions stupid, is that an ad hominem attack? Is saying Kamala Harris slept her way up the political ladder an ad hominem attack? Are truthful but insulting statements ad hominem attacks?

            If you were making these calls, I trust that you would probably make them in a fair and reasoned way. I do not trust most people or entities, however, to use fairness, reason or good judgement in making those decisions. I have observed bias, hypocrisy and racism being applied to these judgment calls.

            Was what the coach said ethical? Nope. Should it get him fired? This is where my problem is. Based off of current events, based off of the number of ad hominem statements that are made on Twitter, and based off of the blatant double standards and hypocrisy of institutions selectively applying these standards in deciding who to fire, I lean on the no side. Leftist professors say all sorts of hateful, appalling things about people they disagree with, and it is always held up as being allowed as free speech. Unless everyone is going to be held to the same, objective standards, it isn’t ethical to fire him.

            Now, I understand that just because everyone else is doing unethical things, doesn’t mean that it is okay for this person to do them. Maybe the most ethical thing to do, is go take a look at all this institutions employees Twitter feeds and fire EVERYONE who has tweeted out something nasty like this. Unless the standard is evenly applied, this is cherry picking a viewpoint and selectively punishing an individual for wrong-think. Anyone calling Trump orange should be fired under those criteria. Anyone insulting his weight should be fired under those criteria. Anyone calling him nasty names, comparing him unfavorably to public figures, or making personal attacks on him should be fired under those criteria. Those are also ad hominem attacks. I have never heard of anyone being fired for doing those things, because what counts as an ad hominem attack only matters if the person being attacked is someone the left wants protected. If saying nasty things about Stacy Abrams is a fireable offense, saying them about Trump is a fireable offense.

            • Answers: Is calling BLM a terrorist group an ad hominem attack? No, it’s a diagnosis. Is criticizing a black politician for her legislative decisions an ad hominem attack, even if no personal insults are used or mention of personal characteristics are made? Clearly not. If you call the decisions stupid, is that an ad hominem attack? Nope. If you say the legislator is stupid, maybe.

              Is saying Kamala Harris slept her way up the political ladder an ad hominem attack? Nope, because it goes to integrity. If you hail that out to criticize her position on immigration, yes, dd hominem.

              • I agree with your assessment of the answers, as would any rational person I believe. The left is not known for being rational, however, and I believe they would call all of the above as hominem attacks, and fire people for all of them.

                On the other side of the coin, no one is getting fired for calling Trump a fat, orange, old, hamburger eating d-bag. When I really weigh my opinion of whether they ought to get fired for that, I personally don’t think they should, because I consider it political speech, and I don’t think people should get fired for political speech they make outside the workplace. I think it is rude, obnoxious and appalling that so many people are running around saying such nasty things, but I don’t actually want them all to lose their livelihoods over it. I think it takes it to far, and puts to many people out of work, and hurts people for behavior that has become standard operating procedure on social media. I do think they should get fired for running around the office saying the same things.

      • In my opinion it’s not relevant whether it’s political speech or not because what he wrote is constitutionally protected free speech specifically directed at or about a nationally known political public figure and what he wrote has absolutely nothing to do with his employment there was absolutely no overlap between what he wrote and his employer.

        This guy’s diatribe post as compared to the New Jersey Police Officer that got herself fired for writing that BLM is terrorist on social media, she actually included her job in her comment and therefore her workplace was included as part of her argument. I’m sure this inclusion justifiably embarrassed her employer and also placed some questionability as to whether she could fairly perform her duties when confronted with BLM activists. I also think another form of discipline would have been more appropriate for a first offense of this nature, but nooooooo, the mob intimidation tactics won out again.

        There really are significant differences between what these two people did when publicly posting their opinions.

        FYI: I still ask the same questions I asked earlier even when the employee directly involves their workplace. I still think that the firing of the employee because of them voicing their personal opinions on their own social media on their own time puts a stranglehold on non work related personal free speech because employees will be in literal fear of loosing their livelihood because employers won’t stand up to the mob of social justice warriors and choose to fire the outspoken employee to fend off the mob. In my opinion, the line is very unclear.

      • I used to do this kind of work, and if I were the Administrative Law Judge on this one, who makes the initial call, or on the Civil Service Commission, which makes the final administrative call, upholding these penalties isn’t so cut and dried. I’ve seen some cut-and-dried ones, drug use, being romantically involved with a convicted felon or known gang member, unjustified beatings, etc. Others, though, not so obvious, like posting stuff on message boards referring to the former police director as “Afro Ambrose” or “The Wig,” or agreeing with a picture comment that compared the mayor to a gorilla. Inappropriate, yes. Obnoxious, yes. Disrespectful to the chain of command, yes. Firing offenses? I don’t know about that, especially if the person’s record is otherwise clean. In this case there was also no disrespect of the chain of command. That said, there is a question of whether these officers’ ability to interact with the community has been compromised. Charter a bus, start a BLM protest, get these officers involved, and then what? Still, the penalty smacks of being thrown under the bus to appease the mob.

        • “Still, the penalty smacks of being thrown under the bus to appease the mob.”

          Sure it does. Does anyone imagine that any penalties at all would have been considered (or the post even noted?) if the group mentioned were KKK, Aryan Nation, or similar, even though such groups have caused less death and destruction in the last few years than BLM ?

          • Could have probably gotten away with it even if it were Antifa mentioned. But, the minute it becomes about one of the left’s weak and abused children, no.

  6. This smacks of the “Naked Teacher Principle” to me. To use an analogy though, I think a school would have a problem if they were fine with a female teacher posing in playboy, but then fired a male teacher for posing in playgirl (is that still around?). I think that applies here. As Steve pointed out above, there is an interesting post from Jonathan Turley on this very subject (https://jonathanturley.org/2021/05/01/tennessee-coach-sues-after-being-fired-for-tweet-insulting-stacey-abrams/), where Turley brings up the double standard here. For several years it has been perfectly acceptable to throw these very same types of ad hominems at any of several politicians and ancillary figures on the right, even by college professors. While I agree that the comment was potentially a “signature significance” type comment, it is hard to use that as a standard with the last few years in mind.

    • Turley is a free speech absolutist; I’m close, but not quite. As I said elsewhere, Tribe, a retired, tenured law prof (who is, I fear, senile) is a bad analogy, and the fact that Tribe should have been fired but wasn’t shouldn’t help someone from a different school who SHOULD be fired.

      • I’m showing my ignorance on the law here.

        Is there such thing as common law as it relates to employer-employee relations for things like this?

        If there is, wouldn’t the obvious double standards across the USA come into play in a law suit?

  7. I should be grading research papers, so this is the perfect time to comment on this post. (I was going to run for Procrastinator of the Year, but I never got around to it.)
    My thoughts are all over the place at the moment, and I really don’t have time to figure out what qualifies as a “not only that, but,” and what’s a “that said, however.” So here are a bunch of thoughts and comments in no particular order, the relationship between which I haven’t fully worked out.
    1. I’m probably more liberal than at least 90% of the people who will read this post.
    2. I don’t think the coach should have been fired. Was the firing ethical? Maybe, but I don’t think so. “Embarrassing the employer” morphs far too easily into something resembling socialist realism, the (literally) Stalinist idea that even neutrality is insufficient: active support of the regime is required.
    3. Vulgarity is not to be commended, but neither does it constitute a firing offense for an assistant football coach. For the university president, maybe.
    4. As an employee of a state university who once wrote that a prominent politician “would come in third in a battle of wits with a corndog and a barstool” and routinely applies the term “loony” to his current Congresscritter, I don’t believe that I relinquished my right to state a political point of view when I took my current job. Nor did Coach Malone.
    5. Curmie does have tenure. Coaches don’t.
    6. My political posts and comments are always as Curmie, not under my real name. This is not to protect myself, but rather because I don’t want my students to think they must share my political perspective (because they don’t!). It’s probably true that most of my students have a basic understanding of my politics, but I sincerely hope they don’t think there’s any reward for agreeing or penalty for disagreeing. Those who share my position for the wrong reasons: they’re embarrassing.
    7. Curmie’s identity is not a secret, but few if any of my current students know of Curmie’s existence, much less his identity. I did have a student a few years ago who, having followed the FB page for several months, approached me, wide-eyed, with the exclamation “OMG, *you’re* Curmudgeon Central.” Yes. Yes, I am.
    8. I have no idea if #s 5-7 are at all relevant.
    9. I think the tweet in question is inherently offensive only in terms of weight. The tweet could be interpreted as racist or sexist, but I don’t think it’s intrinsically so. It’s race-based because Fat Albert is black? Really? (Obviously, saying Ms. Abrams is a cheater is also offensive, but not for fitting a demographic profile.)
    10. No one is likely to use the fact that Mr. Malone coaches football as evidence of his political sophistication, nor do his comments affect his ability to teach players how to trap block or pull on end runs. The tweet is an issue, to me, if and only if players or potential players believe it to be. If they won’t play for him, then it becomes a tougher call.
    11. University administrators in the 21st century tend to be examples of that oxymoronic specimen, the authoritarian weenie.
    12. As a follow-up to the above comments about what positions Malone coaches… let’s just say e appears well-acquainted with offensive lines.

    • Let’s say you’re a recruiter for a rival who’s trying to sign a kid this coach is also after. What do you do if you want to steer the kid away from this coach? You show him, and his parents, this tweet. Presto! I’m going to assume the head coach and chief recruiter got this guy fired in a New York minute.

  8. If Malone wrote his tweet on his own time and not using school property, I think he will win his lawsuit as he is a state employee and is protected by the first amendment.

    This is not to say he did not deserve to be fired.

    Also, I wonder if he would have been treated similarly if he had tweeted out against Tim Scott.

    Jack, how do you feel double standards should be approached?

  9. Was it ethical to fire him?

    Ethical? Perhaps, that was a boorish tweet indeed.

    Legal? I don’t think so. I think because he was paid by an employer who takes government funding, this looks to me like a per se violation of the First Amendment.

    Because the school is funded by the government, I can’t see what otherwise lawful speech may be forbidden him in his personal capacity. I checked the Twitter account, and it appeared to be a personal one (Coaches at Division I universities virtually always use “Coach” in some way in their school Twitter handle).

    Assuming I am not wrong on the facts, I think the school can’t fire him for that utterance. Could they use it along with other evidence as proof of poor character? I imagine so, in fact I’m pretty sure of it. But their tweet indicates it was the utterance by the coach in his personal capacity that prompted the firing.

    Given the known facts, I expect him to prevail in a lawsuit if he can successfully show he was fired for a tweet from a personal Twitter account not directed at or representing the school, unless the school can show a compelling reason that will survive strict scrutiny why his tweet was not protected.

    I don’t think the school can do that successfully, but much depends upon the judge and/or jury. The trend lately, however, has been against government employers who punish their employees for speaking in their personal capacity, even boorishly.

        • It shouldn’t make any difference. Sorry, but neither alumni nor students get to define what is constitutionally protected speech and what is not, in my view.

            • True, and that’s why I think this incident could be valuable. The school can use this tweet as evidence that he is unsuitable to serve in his position. But it can’t be the only evidence the school has, or the sole basis for his dismissal.

              As an HR manager would tell you, to be safe you have to carefully gather evidence of a worker’s unsuitability over time — even a short time, if there is plenty available — and demonstrate that the employee violated your written policies and procedures and that you have taken necessary steps to ensure the employee knows these policies. This isn’t theft or some violation of law that would provide a basis for a moral turpitude dismissal. It’s protected political speech, however loathsome.

              This was a knee-jerk reaction to a speech that is clearly in First Amendment territory. While I wouldn’t disagree that the tweet itself is a per se indication of unsuitability, you can’t use it that way, at least as I understand current First Amendment jurisprudence. The good news is, we’ll get to see that jurisprudence tested yet again. Perhaps it will give us clarity. Let’s hope so.

      • I don’t know, Jack. Possibly. It certainly should be. The thing about the Constitution is, as much as I’d like it to be an absolute bar to firings for legal speech, the practical truth is, it’s in the hands of judges who may decide that there is a line somewhere, and that some otherwise legal speech is not protected in certain circumstances. I hope not, but I’m used to disappointment.

        I confess to a rather absolutist view of the First Amendment. Possibly the courts will not agree. They often don’t.

        In return, I’ll posit a question to you: We have seen similar, and worse from many professors on the left, yet no firing. Does that even matter? Where does a college draw the line, and can we move that line wherever we want? I know that is “whataboutism,” so you can safely ignore it. I’m just pointing out that allowing professors to call Republicans horrible names, but forbidding that same speech against Democrats is problematic.

        I think it best to take the default position that such speech is always protected. It may become unprotected if it falls outside the general “matters of public controversy” rubric, or is directed at the school, its employees, it’s students, or is made as a representative of the university.

        • The professors who were not fired, should be. Never for political speech, but “all white people are racists/should be killed” isn’t political. It’s disqualifying for a teacher a) as bigotry, b) as stupidity, c) as irresponsible. Teachers shouldn’t be stupid and irresponsible, and when they prove they are, they shouldn’t be teaching.

          • I agree, ethically. People with no control over their emotions or willingness to consider the who their words might hurt are not people who should be in positions of authority over our young adults or children.

            I do think, though, that the First Amendment prevents public schools and universities from firing them for what they say, no matter how horrible.

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