Freedom of speech…but, is it really?

Published 11:09 am Monday, September 18, 2017

Interesting this week: two perspectives on – dare I say it! – racism.

Tuesday, a Missouri man had a “Slaves 4 Sale” sign in front of his home and he placed the sign above a Confederate flag. He then claimed he’s not racist, citing the stigmatized meaning behind the flag as a reason for him to behave ‘stupid’.

“If people actually believe that a Confederate flag stands for slavery, well, I might as well be just as stupid as they are,” he told a local TV station. “(The flag) is for people that are tired of the government telling them what to do and what to think. That is what a Southern rebel is.”

He ended his comments by saying if he were to follow through with selling slaves, then he would have to sell his own grandchildren. You see, his grandchildren are biracial.

The flag and Confederate memorial statutes, to this day, have caused a divide among Americans, and will probably continue to do so.

There were more flames hurled this week from ESPN reporter/anchor Jemele Hill, whom I knew from the days when she worked as a sports reporter for a newspaper in Raleigh and I was in TV sports in Wilmington. This fire, I knew, would be a lot tougher to extinguish.

Hill tweeted on social media Tuesday that President Donald Trump is “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists.” Those tweets came in the middle of a conversation concerning musician Kid Rock’s desire to run for political office back in Hill’s native Michigan. Naturally, since it’s social media, her remarks became immediately amplified.

The following day, Hill sought to clarify her comments and ESPN management said remarks Hill made “do not represent the position of ESPN”. They claimed to have addressed this with Hill and “she recognizes her actions were inappropriate”. However, ESPN declined to comment on what discipline was given to Hill while others, including White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, called for Hill’s firing.

The authoritarianism on display here is alarming: The White House is calling on a media company to fire a reporter for criticizing the president. But just as troubling is the way that ESPN served Hill up on a silver platter to Trump’s people.

Sanders had an interesting take on the fact that Hill and the President have never met, though I’ve never considered such as a requirement for making commentary. But when you’re the front-face of a major network, you sometimes must tread delicately across your forum.

“I’m well aware a number of folks will agree with the substance of her comments while others will reject them just as readily,” said one of her Bristol, CT colleagues. “You can love the sinner and hate the sin,” they maintained.

“The term ‘racism’ is thrown around so much it doesn’t even have meaning anymore,” former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said on FOX News. “It’s been so diluted,” he continued, “because nowadays everybody’s a ‘bigot,’ everybody’s a ‘racist,’ everybody’s a ‘fascist’.”


Sometimes it can be disastrous when sports start to drift into politics, but I always think it’s funny that negative consequences only seem to happen to individuals who express opinions that are politically incorrect. Do you remember baseball player turned commentator Curt Schilling’s comments on North Carolina’s HB2 transgender bathroom legislation? It’s those remarks that lead to his firing from – yep – ESPN!?!

Freedom of speech. It can get awkward sometimes can’t it!?!


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7211.