Once Again, Hall Of Fame Ethics (Or The Lack Of Them)

Schilling

The MLB Hall of Fame vote, at least since the Steroid Era, gives us a window into the ethics of baseball writers, and the view is pretty grim. Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballots, many of which are made public before the election results are revealed, annually show dead ethics alarms and an absence of critical thinking, but as someone who has been reading these guys (they are almost all guys) since I was 12, this is no surprise. The smart and thoughtful ones like Joe Posnanski, Roger Angell, Bill James and Peter Gammons, are exceptions. I wouldn’t trust most of the rest to take out the trash.

A player who has been retired for at least five years has to be on 75% of the writers’ ballots (ten players can be listed on a ballot) needed to be “enshrined,” as they like to say in the Cooperstown museum, and a player has ten tries to make it. This year, nobody was selected.

The result was a slap in the face to former Orioles, Philadelphia, Arizona and Red Sox starting pitcher Curt Schilling, and was intended to be. He just missed the 75% level last year, and usually that means that a player gets in the Hall the next time, especially in a year like this one, where there were no major additions to the candidates. Schilling, by prior standards, by statistical analysis, and by the simple reality that he was famous while playing and had a single iconic moment that will keep him in baseball lore forever—the “bloody sock” game, should be an easy call. Yet ESPN and other sources refer to him as “controversial.” Why is he controversial? He’s controversial because he is religious, conservative, Republican, and an outspoken Trump supporter, none of which has a thing to do with baseball. Schilling also, to his credit, refuses to submit to his critics and the social media mobs. He is independent and comfortable with who he is, he is articulate in expressing his opinions (at least by typical athlete standards), and can and will defend his points of view. He shouldn’t have to, however, to be admitted to the Hall of Fame.

His sportsmanship and professional comportment while playing was never less than impeccable. Curt Schilling has a deep respect for the game (one opinion that has been held against him is his insistence that steroid users are cheaters), and he has done nothing since leaving baseball that was sufficiently vile to harm it in any way. To the contrary, he and his wife (now battling cancer) have been active in charity work and community projects. That satisfies the Hall’s so-called “character clause.”

Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “Portrait Of An Ethics Train Wreck: The Race-Baiting ESPN Commentator”

Checking what I had written previously about the despicable race-baiting journalist Jemele Hill (who has authored a piece for the Atlantic advocating a return to segregation in college), I re-read the post I had written two years ago as Hill when paving her road out of ESPN. As is often the case, I had completely forgotten what I wrote, and getting re-acquainted with it, I not only approved of the analysis but saw its application as relevant to other situations we have seen since and will continue to see.

Let me add that the fact that angry, divisive, unethical journalists like Hill have a place in legitimate (or what once were legitimate) news and commentary outlets is proof of ethics rot in the industry. She is no better nor different from ugly hacks like Alex Jones on the right, yet maintains visibility and a platform for her cultural poison for three reasons: she is a progressive, she is black, and she is female. None of these are valid reasons to inflict her personal vendettas and hateful rhetoric on America. Jones has been largely banned from social media, but Hill’s bile still flows undammed.

The post also is depressing proof of how relentless and irrational “the resistance” has been The line in the two-year-old essay—“Too many of Hill’s likely peer groups and those around her have, since last November 8, engaged in nearly continuous disrespect of the President’s person, his office, and the process that elected him. This continues to be divisive, destructive, and dangerous for the nation. It is wrong.”—has a familiar ring, for I have written almost the same sentence too many tomes to count since. I will probably write it again next week.

Here, lightly edited, is the September 14, 2017 post titled, Portrait Of An Ethics Train Wreck:The Race-Baiting ESPN Commentator”:

The recent still-rolling ethics train wreck launched by ESPN “SportsCenter” co-host Jemele Hill is a perfect example of how such cultural fiascos occur.

Stage I:  The Instigator

Hill, a young African American woman, went on a Twitter rant against President Trump  this week.

“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” Hill tweeted. “His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period. He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected.”

Factors, Stage I

A. An ethics alarms doesn’t  ring.

Why in the world would Hill think that the face of a national broadcast network could publicly call the President of the United States a white supremacist without causing a problem for her employer? The key ethics values being breached  are trust and responsibility. She has a responsibility to ESPN, which should be able to trust her not to harm it or upset viewers.

B. An instigator has an inflated view of his or her own importance, indispensability, wisdom, expertise or authority.

We are living in an age where narcissism is epidemic, but even so, a sports anchor has to be able to comprehend that once he or she is outside the realm of sports, her opinion on the President or anyone else cannot possibly have a positive effect on public discourse unless it is carefully thought out, crafted,, and expressed.

The key ethics values being breached are competence and  humility.

C. Social media. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/21/2018: Getting The Tree Lights On In One Day Victory Lap Edition, Featuring Sports, Movies, Jerks And “Bambi”

Happy Holidays!

Seven hours, one serious needle wound, and 1300 lights later, victory! I’ll finish the decorations when I get back home, IF I get back home…

1. Itinerary…I’m heading to New Jersey via train to hook up with the brilliant Mike Messer, what we call “the talent,” in an encore rendition of the musical legal ethics seminar, “Ethics Rock Extreme,” lyrics by yours truly, musical stylings by Mike, on the guitar. Then it’s back to D.C. by air on Saturday, if I’m lucky. If I’m not lucky, I’ll be taking the New Jersey bar exam in the Spring…

I have no idea how or whether I’ll be able to keep Ethics Alarms on track once I board the train this afternoon. I’m not going to launch a second Open Forum in leas than a week, so please keep working on the current one here, now at 130 entries and counting. I will be reviewing those on the road, and I’m sure there will be some Comments of the Day to post, eventually.

2. In case I am trapped in New Jersey…Let me alert everyone that Peter Jackson’s apparently terrific (based on the reviews) WWI documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” will be playing in theaters on December 27, and after that, who knows? The American public’s ignorance about that war, perhaps the greatest human catastrophe in modern history, is a failure of education, perspective and culture. If you have kids, take them. Here is the trailer:

3. Speaking of cultural literacy and movies, TCM is offering a limited engagement in theaters for “The Wizard of Oz,” on January 27, 29, and 30.

Is there another film that so many people purport to know and love so well without actually having seen it as it was intended to be seen? When I finally saw the movie in a theater—no breaks or commercials, big screen—I was shocked at how different and, obviously, better, the experience was. It’s an artistic masterpiece and sui generis: we will never see its like again, nor talents like Judy, Ray and Burt, among others. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The Boston Red Sox

The bloody sock…

(Never let it be said again that I allow my personal biases to affect my ethics criticism….)

Last night, the Boston Red Sox had the ceremonial first pitch of Game #2 of the World Series thrown en masse by seven members of the 2004 World Series winning Sox, the team that ended Boston’s  86 year World Series championship drought, forever banishing the franchise’s reputation as the team that could never quite manage to win the final game. David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, Kevin Millar, Keith Foulk and Alan Embree received the cheers of the crowd, but perhaps the biggest symbol of the team’s achievement of all, pitcher Curt Schilling, was absent. Schilling was the warrior who started two crucial games (One on the way to beating the Yankees in the league championship series, and another against St. Louis in the World series), winning both, with his ankle tendon crudely stitched to his skin to keep it stable, as blood seeped into his sock for all to see. It is one of the great moments of on-field sacrifice and heroism in baseball history.

How could they snub Schilling, of all players? Was he invited? “Nope,” he tweeted to a fan who asked during the game. “No worrries though, great to see @45PedroMartinez, @davidortiz and @KMillar15  though.”  “Oh,” he added, “and I get to keep my 3 rings and 3 trophies, so it’s all good.”

Not really. Schilling was obviously insulted, and should have been. “Were my feelings hurt? In one sense, yes, not being able to be on the field with the men who I will always share …2004  with and not being able to once again thank the folks who paid for the tickets and whose lives changed with ours sucks,” Schilling  posted on Facebook today.

The team, through a spokeswoman, denied an intentional snub. “The ceremonial first pitch started with a couple of 2004 guys and then grew organically as we learned of other ’04 players who were planning to be at the ballpark for Game 2. There was no blanket invite to the entire team,” she said, “and no slight intended to anyone not included.”

What utter BS. Continue reading

Portrait Of An Ethics Train Wreck:The Race-Baiting ESPN Commentator

The recent still-rolling ethics train wreck launched by ESPN “SportsCenter” co-host Jemele Hill is a perfect example of how such cultural fiascos occur.

Hill, a young African American woman, went on a Twitter rant against President Trump  this week.

“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” Hill tweeted Monday night. “His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period. He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected.”

Factors, Stage I:  The Instigator

A. An ethics alarms doesn’t  ring.

Why in the world would Hill think that the face of a national broadcast network could publicly call the President of the United States a white supremacist without causing a problem for her employer? The key ethics values being breached  are trust and responsibility. She has a responsibility to ESPN, which should be able to trust her not to harm it or upset viewers.

B. An instigator has an inflated view of his or her own importance, indispensability, wisdom, expertise or authority.

We are living in an age where narcissism is epidemic, but even so, a sports anchor has to be able to comprehend that once he or she is outside the realm of sports, her opinion on the President or anyone else cannot possibly have a positive effect on public discourse unless it is carefully crafted, thought out, and expressed.

The key ethics values being breached are competence and  humility.

C. Social media.

Any public figure, including TV personalities, should not use social media until they recognize that a flamboyant post is the equivalent of a press release. Attacking the President, especially in personal terms, is stupid, even when the attack itself isn’t as stupid as Hill’s. (Uh,  Jemele ?  President Obama would never have gotten to within a baseball throw (remember, we saw him throw a baseball) of the White House, or even the nomination, if he were not black. Before him, no candidate, successful or not, for President would have been elected if wasn’t white, or male for that matter. Or Jewish. The accusation if Trump were  “not white, he never would have been elected” is really, really stupid.

The key ethics value being breached is competence.

D. Corrupting cultural influences.

Too many of Hill’s likely peer groups and those around her have, since last November 8, engaged in nearly continuous disrespect of the President’s person, his office, and the process that elected him. This continues to be divisive, destructive, and dangerous for the nation. It is wrong. The culture is giving her terrible role models, like Maxine Waters, celebrities on Hollywood award shows, and Stephen Colbert, who, for example, thought that it was a appropriate and hilarious to repeatedly give the “Heil!” salute on his show as an insult to the President. CBS (unethically) lets him get away with this kind of thing, because it embraces the Star Syndrome, or the King’s Pass, rather than ethical principles.

The key ethics value being breached is citizenship.  Hill has been misled into thinking that amplified hateful conduct and rhetoric toward a President is appropriate conduct for any U.S. citizen. it isn’t. It is even more inappropriate for prominent Americans in the media.

Stage Two: Failed Containment

ESPN’s response was this: “The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the President do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”

This made the problem worse. Why? Because ESPN had, more than once, suspended or fired prominent personnel for far less “inappropriate” public comments than what Hill said. Thus it appeared to shrug off a personal attack on the President, including accusations of racism.

Factors, Stage Two

A. Inept Ethics Chess

How could ESPN, already under fire for politicizing its sports reporting (and losing viewers as a result) not realize that an ethics train wreck was starting to roll, and that it could either stop it, or accelerate it? Hill had made sure that no matter what it did, it would be attacked, but no valid attacks would land if it said, “As we have in the past when on-air personnel have made inflammatory statements about public figures and issues unrelated to sports, ESPN has suspended Jamele Hill for her comments about President Trump.”

The key ethics values being breached are  competence and fairness.

B. Bias makes you stupid.

ESPN and its parent company Disney is largely run and populated by Democrats, progressives and liberals who detest President Trump, and thus have their values paralyzed by bias in everything related to him. Echo chamber or no, they should recognize this by now, and adjust accordingly. Everyone has to recognize the biases that lead to bad decision-making. In addition, one is in immediate peril of unethical conduct when one refused to respect the choices and views of fellow citizens, especially when you purport to provide services and products to all

The key ethics values being breached are trust, competence and fairness.

C. Unethical messaging

As a business, employer and a prominent presence in the culture, ESPN has an obligation to send clear, positive, responsible messages to its employees, audience and the public at large. Ugh. Here are some of the messages a reasonable person could derive from the networks bland reaction to Hill’s rant:

If you are female and black, you can pretty much get away with saying controversial stuff that a white man can’t. (See: Curt Schilling)

ESPN thinks the President and half the population and probably more than half its audience is racist, but would prefer employees not broadcast that fact, because it is inappropriate.

ESPN hires self-righteous political grandstanders rather than competent sports commentators.

ESPN has double standards.

ESPN has no standards.

ESPN is run by a confederacy of gerbils.

Here is the message that ESPN, if it were responsible, trustworthy, fair and competent while respecting its viewers, should have sent with whatever action it chose to take regarding Hill: Continue reading

Ugh. Well, I Guess That Answers The Question About Whether Being President Would Make Trump More Civil…

pocahontas-saves-smith-1870

Apparently during a meeting with Democratic Senators, President Trump repeatedly referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” the mocking nickname (which didn’t originate with him) often used by her detractors to refer to Warren’s unsubstantiated claims of Native American heritage. Warren once exploited what she later asserted was oral family lore to benefit from a university’s affirmative action hiring policy.

No, she was not at the meeting. From George Washington’s 11o rules of civility:

Rule 89: Speak not evil of the absent, for it is unjust.

Ugh. To say that Presidents Trump’s mockery was uncivil and unpresidential is insufficient. Using playground name-calling to denigrate any elected official is boorish, juvenile and really, really stupid as well. Continue reading

KABOOM! ESPN Achieves A New Low In Unethical Journalism: Misinforming The Public Out Of Spite

If you told me ESPN COULD make my head explode, I wouldn't have believed you...

If you told me ESPN COULD make my head explode, I wouldn’t have believed you…

ESPN has been foundering in a sea of ethical ignorance for some time now, but this was shocking even for them.

In a petty exercise to express its disdain and and anger at dismissed baseball commentator Curt Schilling, the sports network excised an entire section of its documentary on the legendary 2004 American League Championship play-offs when it was shown last night prior to the scheduled Red Sox-Yankee game. I cannot think of a single example of unethical journalism by a major outlet so blatant and so offensive.

Let’s go back a bit. Schilling is an outspoken religious conservative, active on social media. He was suspended from his baseball game broadcasting duties last season after comparing Islamic radicals to Nazis in a Twitter post—not all that unreasonable, actually, but if ESPN has a policy against its employees making controversial political statements on social media, and apparently it does, Schilling was asking for trouble.

Indeed, Curt has nothing if not integrity when it comes to expressing himself, and he could not resist commenting on the transgender bathroom controversy, re-tweeting a particularly ugly meme on the issue:

transgender bathroom tweet

ESPN fired Curt. He had earlier in the year opined in a radio interview that “If I’m gonna believe, and I don’t have any reason not to believe, that she gave classified information on hundreds if not thousands of emails on a public server after what happened to General Petraeus, she should buried under a jail somewhere.” Allowing for hyperbole, that’s a perfectly legitimate position to take, but again, if ESPN doesn’t want Curt, who it was paying a million bucks or so, to take shots at someone it believed its audience members were fond of,  it can instruct its employees accordingly. It expressed its objections to Schilling, and he tweeted the meme anyway. Continue reading

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

schilling-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: Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Former Red Sox Pitcher Curt Schilling

schilling_rect

No, this isn’t about “the bloody sock.”

When Curt Schilling found his teenage daughter the target of obscene tweets from anonymous Schilling haters —he annoys vengeful Yankee fans because he led the historic Boston comeback from a 0-3 deficit that humiliated their team in 2004, deranged Democrats because he is a Republican, anti-Christian bigots because he is openly devout, and there was that scandal involving his game company blowing through millions of taxpayer dollars bestowed on it by Rhode Island —he got both mad and even, tracking down their identities, and exposing them and their filthy cyber-bullying on his personal blog.  He apologized to his daughter for prolonging her embarrassment, saying,

P.S. Gabby I know you’re likely embarrassed and for that I apologize,” he wrote. “But as we have talked about, there is no situation ever in your life, where it’s ok for any ‘man’ to talk about you, or any other woman this way (and truth be told no real man would ever talk this way anyway). It truly is time this stopped.”

Several of Gabby’s tormenters felt her famous father’s wrath in substantive ways. In the aftermath of Schilling’s counterattack,  Adam Nagel  was suspended by Brookdale Community College, where he’s a student and a disc jockey, and Sean MacDonald was terminated by the Yankees, where he worked as a part-time ticket seller. The ex-pitcher noted that several athletes who slimed Gabby Schilling were punished by their coaches.

Wrote the avenging father on his blog, Continue reading

Lincoln Chafee’s Unethical Attack on Curt Schilling

Former G.O.P. Senator Lincoln Chafee, now running for Governor of Rhode Island as an Independent, did a despicable thing yesterday, and almost certainly has no idea why it was so wrong.

During a radio interview, Chafee criticized a deal state economic development officials approved with 38 Studios, a game development company owned by former Red Sox pitcher and World Series hero Curt Schilling. Chafee, who is not alone in his criticism of the loan, argued that too much taxpayer money is being entrusted to a company that has no proven track record. That’s a legitimate point. But to hammer home his point, Chafee decided to attack the character, career accomplishments, reputation and integrity of Schilling, a man he has never met…based on nothing at all. Continue reading