ESPN ran out of patience with Curt Schilling and the network fired the baseball analyst Wednesday. Schilling had proved unwilling to temper his controversial comments on social and political topics, and in his latest episode, he shared a Facebook meme about transgender issues that many found offensive.
“ESPN is an inclusive company,” the network said in a statement emailed to The Washington Post. “Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.”
Schilling had been taken off ESPN’s baseball coverage in September, after he shared a meme that compared extremism in today’s Muslim world to Nazi Germany in 1940. Shortly after that, a filing with the Federal Election Commission showed that Schilling, while donating $250 to Ben Carson’s presidential campaign, had listed his employer as “ESPN (Not Sure How Much Longer)” and, under “Occupation,” he wrote, “Analyst (For Now Anyway).”
In March, Schilling told a radio station that Hillary Clinton “should be buried under a jail somewhere,” in apparent violation of an ESPN policy on commentary relating to the presidential election. However, the network allowed the former pitcher to keep his position as an analyst on Monday baseball telecasts.
However, weighing in on the so-called bathroom laws enacted in several states, most recently North Carolina, in the manner that Schilling did apparently served as the last straw. He had shared a meme, presumably created by someone else, of a man in a wig and an unusual, tight outfit, adding a comment that made clear his feelings on the matter.
“A man is a man no matter what they call themselves,” Schilling wrote. “I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”
After getting some backlash, Schilling took to his personal blog Tuesday to decry the “‘offended’ people” who, he wrote, “are full of crap.” The six-time MLB all-star added, “You frauds out there ranting and screaming about my ‘opinions’ (even if it isn’t) and comments are screaming for ‘tolerance’ and ‘acceptance’ while you refuse to do and be either.”
The 49-year-old Schilling, whose pitching career ended in 2007, had worked for ESPN since 2010. After he was removed from his analyst duties last fall, the network broke ground by replacing him with Jessica Mendoza on its Sunday night telecasts.
On Wednesday, Schilling defended his stance in an interview on Boston’s WEEI radio and said he was “blindsided” by the reaction he got for sharing the meme.
“To be in a place where people actually believe I’m a racist or I’m transphobic says to me that something has gone horribly askew somewhere,” he told the “Dennis and Callahan” show, pointing out that the Facebook meme didn’t originate with him.
“That wasn’t my post,” he said of the meme. “I commented on that. … I replied to the post. I didn’t post that. I made a comment paraphrasing it would be people that go to the bathroom standing up use one, and people that go the bathroom sitting down use the other. That’s turned into somehow I’m transphobic. I don’t know.”
Schilling’s son and wife defended him on Facebook in posts Tuesday night.
“…[I]t’s come to my attention my father Curt Schilling has been slandered as a ‘transphobic bigot,'” Grant Schilling wrote. “And while I will say he’s not the most well informed in the modern LGBT+ culture, I can assure you he’s made great strides to understand people today. If he were a bigot he wouldn’t have allowed my Trans friends to stay over, he’s respected pronouns and name changes — never once have I heard him say something to me that I thought he should keep quiet about.”
Shonda Schilling, whose Facebook bio says that she studied mass communication at Towson State in Maryland, wrote:
“DON’T EVER accuse anyone in this Schilling home of having issues or a phobia about trans people.
“My 16-year-old son is a great advocate of all sexual orientation and the gender spectrum. He has been educating us way before Caitlin [Caitlyn] Jenner ever hit the newsstands. He has several friends who are trans and who have been in and out of our home and even stayed with us. We treat no one differently. The life these kids and young adults are walking through is not easy. I am sure most of the ‘writers’ and I say that loosely because what will happen now will be stories written without any research and all opinion. Funny when I studied journalism in college it was not to be reported unless it was fact and had a source.
“Curt Schilling is probably more educated and has met more trans people then most of the sports writers spreading this nonsense. If you want a real story talk to these kids about how hard it is to get family, friends and society to accept them. This house is and will always be the one place that everyone is accepted and feel[s] loved.”