Roland Martin, a political contributor to CNN, was suspended after tweets he sent during the Super Bowl sparked complaints from GLAAD and other groups that claimed the tweets promoted anti-LGBTQ violence. As Lisa de Moraes reported:
After three days of “careful consideration” and increasing pressure, CNN suspended political contributor Roland Martin for a series of Super Bowl tweets that GLAAD and other groups condemned as homophobic and said promoted anti-LGBT violence.
“Roland Martin’s tweets were regrettable and offensive,” CNN said in a statement Wednesday afternoon in announcing Martin’s suspension. “Language that demeans is inconsistent with the values and culture of our organization, and is not tolerated. We have been giving careful consideration to this matter, and Roland will not be appearing on our air for the time being.”
The Time Warner-owned cable news network did not say for how long Martin had been suspended or provide any other details. His last appearance was Tuesday night on CNN’s special election coverage.
“CNN today took a strong stand against anti-LGBT violence and language that demeans any community,” the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said Wednesday. The National Black Justice Coalition — the nation’s largest black LGBT civil-rights organization — said it was “encouraged by CNN’s stance against language that incites anti-gay violence.”
Martin posted his tweets during Sunday’s Super Bowl. That same day, GLAAD posted an online petition calling for his dismissal from CNN. At press time Wednesday, the petition had more than 7,500 signatures.
CNN had been feeling the heat over Martin since the game, when he tweeted that he thought a New England Patriot seen on the screen dressed all in pink needed “a visit from #teamwhipdat[expletive].”
Later, during a break in the game, broadcaster NBC aired a black-and-white H&M ad featuring David Beckham dressed only in briefs from the soccer star’s “body wear” line, Martin reacted by spewing out a bunch of controversial tweets, including, most notably:
“If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl.”
Martin’s suspension is another in a series of suspensions for news anchors and contributors who have made inflammatory statements, prompting some to ask whether suspensions are really the proper answer. As Erik Wemple wrote:
Stipulated, then, that CNN has placed itself on the side of the angels here, in refusing to tolerate homophobia.
Next question: Will a suspension accomplish anything aside from making clear that CNN has a good eye for line-crossing?
Our society adores suspensions. When I was a sixth-grader, I and a couple of fellow meatheads set off a fire extinguisher in our school’s hallway. The consequence? Two-day suspension, which I spent eating Concord grapes off the vine of a friend across the meadow. They were tasty.
My boyhood sports idol, Lawrence Taylor, was caught violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Suspended for four games.
Our knee-jerk reliance on this one-size-fits-all punishment crosses all areas of endeavor. A journalist activist is suspended from the National Press Club for asking tough questions of Saudi royalty (later overturned). High school students are suspended for “Tebowing.” Suspension, suspensions, suspensions — it’s as if authority figures across the land had one blunt mallet to handle all cases of misconduct.
There are cases when suspension is the only logical measure. States must suspend driver’s licenses for people who pose a hazard to the public. Licensing boards must use suspensions and revocations to keep doctors and specialists from doing harm.
But moving back to the case of Roland Martin, what good is a suspension going to accomplish? What his tweets reflect is a general prejudice against gays and complete ignorance about the epidemic of violence against them. Attempts to excuse his homophobia with his much-deployed soccer-joke defense cast a brighter light on his lack of sensitivity to the issue.
As if a spell of idle time is now going to cure the situation. The thinking appears to be that barring Martin from CNN’s broadcasts will teach him how he erred. Maybe he’ll take some steps to raise his awareness of the problem that he only deepened with his nasty outbursts. All of which will be inferior to a countermeasure that CNN has at its fingertips: Suspend him not, but rather assign him to do a series of stories on gay-bashing in America.
Others saw the suspension as merely elevating the importance of a regrettable but not influential web rant. As Alexandra Petri wrote in her satire blog ComPost:
The news that CNN has suspended contributor Roland Martin for his homophobic tweets during the Super Bowl startled me — and not for the reasons it startled everyone else.
Look, I am as opposed to homophobia, bullying and violence as the next guy. But the assumption underlying the whole furor about Martin’s tweet is that what Martin says on Twitter is an incitement to, well, anything at all.
Twitter consists of the sustained delusion that people actually care about what you are saying.
“If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl” Martin tweeted, and then advocacy groups fell upon him. I don’t want anyone to live in a homophobic climate, and I know that homosexual people are being beaten up. But, lord, this is just going to make Roland Martin think he’s more important.
Who will see this tweet and have his principles rejiggered?
Every comment makes a difference. We must be constantly vigilant. We must take care about the climate we create. Well, yes. Absolutely. But — are there kids sitting out there thinking, as GLAAD implied, “Man, Roland Martin, a 40-something man who speaks on CNN, has just tweeted something about smacking people who enjoy seeing David Beckham in his underwear, I have to go commit homophobic violence now”?
Frankly, no. I wish that were the problem.
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