Curt Schilling was known for his outrageous comments even during his ESPN tenure, and since being fired by Bristol last week, he’s dialed up the rhetoric even more and targeted much of it at his old employer. That pattern continued this week, as Schilling made a fiery one-hour guest appearance on a New York taping of Sirius XM’s conservative political show Breitbart News Wednesday, which aired Thursday morning. Via Mediaite, here’s audio of the key part of his comments where he accuses ESPN of employing “some of the biggest racists in sports commentating”:
“I think it was much more about being told what I can’t say than what I can,” Schilling said. “It was apparent to me I think early on that if you wanted to go off topic as a sports person you had to go off topic left or you were going to get in trouble. Some of the most racist things I’ve ever heard have come out of people that are on the air at ESPN. They’re some of the biggest racists in sports commentating. And you take it for what it is, you know who they are, you know what they are. I like the fact that I know, I like that they are openly, because you know who they are, you know that they exist. But one of the things I got early on, was like people would walk up to me, we had the green room at ESPN, and I kind of turned it into a locker room where everything was on the table, you could make fun of anybody’s mom and all the things that go with it like in a baseball locker room, but I had people come up to me and go [whispers] ‘Hey, I’m with you, I’m a Republican too.’ And I was like, it felt like the underground. But it was like a deadly serious thing! We didn’t talk! Religion on the table was a much easier topic than who you voted for.”
Those are some highly-meandering remarks, especially the racist accusation. Newsday‘s Neil Best was in the audience for this taping and caught up with Schilling later to ask for further clarification:
Asked to clarify his remarks after the show, which was recorded before a live audience at SiriusXM headquarters in Manhattan, Schilling said, “The memo that was sent out more than once was about they wanted on air-talent to focus on sports. To me that means focus on sports unless you want to talk about something that is part of the liberal agenda.
You listen to Stephen A. Smith, and Stephen A. Smith was the guy who said that Robert Griffin didn’t play quarterback for the Redskins because he’s black. No, Robert Griffin didn’t play quarterback for the Redskins because he [stunk].
. . . Tony Kornheiser compared the Tea Party to ISIS. I don’t know any planet where those are sports topics. But I don’t care. It’s OK. I think those conversations need to happen. But as soon as you go to the flip side, the right side, there are repercussions for not talking about sports.”
Schilling is throwing around a lot of buzzwords here, but he doesn’t have much to support his case. First off, the “some of the biggest racists” really needs further clarification: who, exactly, does he think is racist, and how so? Is he saying Stephen A. Smith is racist against white people? (There’s a better case that Smith is highly problematic on some athletes of every race.) It’s also very, very unclear how he gets from “you had to go off topic left” in one sentence to “Some of the most racist things I’ve ever heard have come out of people that are on the air at ESPN.” And really, the guy who went around sharing memes comparing Muslims to Nazi Germany is now going to be the determinant of what’s racist? (He’ll remind you that “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” though, and say his sharing of anti-transgender memes and anatomical comments on them “was as innocuous and non-aggressive as anything anybody can say.“)
Beyond that, Schilling is really cherry-picking his examples here in an attempt to prove that ESPN has a liberal bias. Yes, Kornheiser’s ISIS comments were bad, and it’s surprising that he wasn’t suspended for them, but suspension inconsistency is the name of the game at ESPN. Smith’s comments on Griffin have nothing to do with actual politics (unless you think Congress should name Washington’s starting quarterback). It’s notable that ESPN suspended Keith Law for calmly and reasonably pointing the fossil record in support of evolution out to Schilling, and didn’t suspend Schilling for his role in that one. They also didn’t suspend Schilling for saying Hilary Clinton “should be buried under a jail somewhere.” There undoubtedly are other examples of politically liberal commentary on ESPN that Schilling didn’t mention, but there are examples of politically conservative commentary too, such as the move to have reporter Chris Broussard talk about how he views homosexuality as a sin and a “rebellion against God.”
Above all, ESPN hates the idea of being seen as political, going so far as to yank Andy Katz from a neutral politics show just because it was about politics. ESPN is only concerned with their bottom line, and they believe any political stance may hurt that. Schilling’s offensive against ESPN on the conservative media circuit illustrates the downsides of firing him, but it’s hard to take his claims too seriously when you look at the company’s actual record. As Robert Silverman notes, though, Schilling is mostly talking to himself.