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Should Roland Martin Be Fired For David Beckham Underwear Tweet?

In another example stunning example of the double-edged sword that is social media, a friend and former colleague of mine is under fire for something he tweeted during the Super Bowl. Roland Martin, a CNN Analyst, TV One Contributor and prolific tweeter, sent out this one, following the David Beckham commercial for H&M.

Those 22 words were the basis of a firestorm that shows no signs of abating with GLAAD, The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, being one of several groups calling for CNN to fire Martin.

But should they? Is it a termination-worthy offense? I’ll get back to that in a minute. But first, there’s something for everyone here, from those of us prolific in social media to those who think it’s going to go away.

For those who think it’s going to go away, I offer these facts:

  •  If Facebook were a country, it would be the worlds 3rd largest!
  •  Generation Y and Z consider email passe’
  •  eReaders have surpassed traditional book sales
  •  YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.

And specifically related to the Super Bowl:

  •  There were nearly 16 million tweets and Facebook postings during the Super Bowl last night, up from just over three million over last year’s game.
  • On average 10,000 people per second were tweeting about the Superbowl.

Last week, we saw very tangible evidence of social media’s heft when breast cancer charity, Komen for the Cure announced it was withdrawing its support of Planned Parenthood. It felt the full force of that focused and relentless power and after two days of the virtual onslaught, Komen reversed itself.

Now, that’s the lesson for those who are not well versed in this new way of communicating. For those of us who are, this Roland Martin dust-up serves as a crucial reminder. Some of us (and I mean ME) are the naturally, chatty types. We talk a lot in person, popping off with whatever is top of mind. Sometimes it feels like the same thing, as our fingers are dancing across the keyboard. The difference is, popping off with your friend over a glass of wine is a linear conversation; there is a short line between speaker and recipient. Unless someone is eavesdropping, there’s little chance the conversation will go much further. Not so with social media. Instead of linear, it’s exponential. And if it’s in print, pulsed from your handle, well, there’s little you can do to deny it came from you.

Which brings us back to the original question of whether Roland Martin should lose his job for the offending tweet. This is difficult for me because, as I said, I’ve known Roland for years. In my heart of hearts, I don’t really think he was advocating violence against gays as much as he was just trying to be funny. But this is no laughing matter and frankly, potentially dangerous given the number of hate crimes against gays (you can read my own position on sexuality here).

There are a couple of other things to consider here. Anyone who’s ever worked in TV news is familiar with the so-called “morals clause”; in other words, you cannot do anything, even in your private life, that would reflect badly on your employer. The other problem is when the messenger eclipses the message, and that may very well be the case here. CNN will now have to decide whether it wants to risk taking on the groups (and potentially losing viewers) now targeting Martin.

As someone who knows Roland, I’d hate to see him lose his job but honestly, I’m not sure how he’ll be able to keep it, given the growing intensity. But I’d also pull him aside and remind him of the power and reach of social media and in doing so, make sure that I practice what I preach.

So let me open it up to you. Do you think Roland Martin should be fired for sending that tweet or is just social media piling on? Lemme hear ya!

31 Comments

  1. sachelle

    February 6, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Free Speech. He in no way bashed the gay community! If someone wanted to cry sexism I see that as more of an argument. He did not say anything that was blatantly against the homosexual community. I’m starting to get irritated with the overly sensitive GLAAD organization. You can take what he said and ASSUME anything. maybe he doesn’t like men in all pink because it looks stupid, maybe he really doesn’t like gays. Maybe he thinks gawking over Beckham is just ridiculous, again…maybe he just doesn’t like gays…but until he says something about gays specifically shut the heck up. No one has to like or agree with a lifestyle. He should not be allowed to bash that lifestyle just because he doesn’t agree with it…but this is not an example of bashing. I’m ranting now…let me just stop.

  2. Brittney

    February 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Wow…I have a lot of respect for Roland, but he should have known better. I hope for his sake that he can find a way out of this mess.

  3. Women Are Gamechangers

    February 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I follow Martin and to me his tweets all have that tone. I just think that’s they way he thinks and we can’t or shouldn’t fault people for the way they think. I just saw the tweet everyone is talking about reading this post and I have to say I really don’t think it was bashing in anyway. Does it come off offensive maybe but we need to stop always taking everything so personal. It’s almost to the point people will have to bite their tongues instead of saying what’s really on their minds and that’s just sad.

  4. Matt P

    February 6, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Read your article. Maybe not fired– but to say that you should smack someone for liking the ad, the clothing, or for someone who may be gay for liking what they saw on the screen–it just was in poor taste. To say you should hit someone because they like that sort of thing is not right–at all. Let’s just say Anderson Coops prob won’t have him on 360 anytime soon.

  5. MomMaven

    February 6, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Why is it that anything that isn’t pro-gay is seen as gay bashing? This has become an overly sensitive issue and the whole discussion over this tweet is a waste of energy. There is nothing wrong with what was tweeted and people need to get over themselves. I saw a non-celebrity Facebook something very similar and there was no outrage on his FB wall over his anti-gay stance. In my book this is a non-issue.

  6. Andy

    February 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    The fact that he followed up GLAAD’s tweet to him with a “way to assume” defensive, snarky response (not shown in this post) shows that he didn’t give much thought to his tweet when he wrote it, nor after the fact.

    Calling for anyone to have the ish (wtf is ish?) smacked out of them is rather frat-like behavior to begin with. Certainly it is beneath the dignity of someone who offers himself up to news programs as a person who is able to have reasonable — and reasoned — discourse. This was a call to violence. I’m sure that Martin and his friends will say he was only joking, and most of the people who read it will see it that way, as juvenile as it was (and not remotely funny, truth be told — I mean, what’s clever or witty about it at all?). But not everyone reading those words will read it as a joke. Some will take it, even subconsciously, as condoning rather anti social behaviors. And I can’t imagine it being seen as a joke by those who have had the ish (again, WTF is ish?) smacked out of them simply because they did get hyped by the image of someone of the same sex.

    I think you need only ask the friends and family of Tyler Clemente to find out the impact of being singled out for whom they find attractive.

    Should he be fired for it? I don’t know, probably. (people will argue freedom of speech, but that typically keeps the government from shutting you up, businesses have the right to protect their images.) Should he be ashamed? Most definitely. Let’s be better than this, huh?

  7. Andy

    February 6, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    @sachelle: he wrote “dude” That implies man.

  8. Craig

    February 6, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    I really didn’t draw a connection with his statement as being a gay bashing one, I think people are always looking for a way to make a big deal out of nothing plain and simple. So no I don’t think Roland should be fired nor should CNN take any action on this silly issue.

  9. Trina

    February 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    I don’t care for Roland Martin at all. Some of his tweets and FB posts are brainless, thoughtless and careless. But if last night posts are the WORST he’s ever posted than he shouldn’t be fired. I’ve seen him post worse. I’m a journalist and I believe in freedom of speech, but that is not alive and well anymore. You have to be responsible for your own actions and words. I could care less what CNN does. I don’t believe he will be missed either way.

  10. Nicole

    February 6, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    I am on the fence. I’ve been reading his tweets all day and don’t get anti gay. I feel that this statement could have been said by any man. Maybe the smack the ish out of him maybe a bit harsh. But he never said anything about gay. I personally think that America has become to sensitive. tongue and cheek comments are no more. I think we should take Roland’s apology and move on.

  11. Jim Walker

    February 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Fired would be a little much for this type of a comment. After all, most of the Republicans running for President have said things far more offensive about gays, women and minorities than this! Maybe a long conversation with HR at CNN would be in order with a warning to be a little more cautious about what he puts out there. If there is any punishment, maybe a couple days suspension with the warning. I don’t think he is anti-gay, more just your average straight guy joking with the boys on Superbowl Sunday. Fine in his own living room, not so fine if you’re Tweeting to a national audience.

  12. Kimberli

    February 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    No, he should not be fired not at all. Freedom of speech. That’s it sometimes it sickens me how “politically correct” we’ve become just ready to ponce on some1 for the slightest words

  13. Juli

    February 6, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    I took it more as him putting a person down for thinking fashion (and some sexy fashion at that) over football. Maybe I wasn’t looking for trouble, so I didn’t see it, but he sure got it. Remind me never to go into any kind of occupation that restricts my first ammendment rights. I am way too opinionated for my mouth or tweet to risk my livelihood.

  14. Pontificating Brother

    February 6, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    I will agree that people have become far too sensitive to comments being said and I’m concerned that we are raising and promoting a nation of soft/thinned skinned individuals. Further I’m concerned that these comments I’m now making could be viewed as me saying its not ok to be sensitive. Which could be extrapolated as me being anti feminine.

    Bottom line is we need to consider the audience he is speaking to and how they will take the comments. I can’t imagine that there are many people that follow Roland that will go out and Gay Bash. Those type of individuals would find Roland offensive and wouldn’t easily conform to his banter. If every time we open our mouths or tweet/ blog/ agree…we need to be concerned with the World audience then we will shortly find ourselves not speaking or sharing ideas because there are many people that don’t agree with how we look, walk, talk, Pray, dress, or love. If you look hard enough you will find hate in his tweet, just as you will find hate in the comments of the current GOP candidates that are acting out their “friendly mud throwing and dirty laundry showing” in the media. The world will always have crazy people acting out against all types of other people they dislike or disagree with. Our charge is not to find ourselves submitting to the ridiculousness that they represent or becoming prisoners in our attempt to not offend.

    I hope CNN decides to “man up” and deal with the storm that this will cause by several groups that have found their identity in being a sensitivity meter. Lastly, if the words “man up” offend you then there are deeper issues at work here. Just so I’m clear….i’m not asking anyone to run out and harm anyone that might share a different view than they do. Best wishes to my brother Roland…I know this will be a learning experience for him.

  15. Daniel Walker

    February 6, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Roland Martin is known for talking junk on Twitter. I follow him on Twitter, so I’m used to the trash-talking. The Tweet wasn’t serious, and anyone who has followed Roland for a while knows that Tweet was harmless.

  16. sachelle

    February 6, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    @andy and even if he wrote dude it doesn’t make it gay bashing…maybe we all need an understanding of what “bashing” is. Those tweets don’t equal bashing to me *shrugs*

  17. Smarty P. Jones

    February 6, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    I follow Roland on Twitter. When I saw him send those Tweets last night, I knew there was going to be a shit storm. I did not, however, know it was going to be of this proportion. Everyone here who said Roland talks a lot of junk on Twitter is absolutely right. Everyone here who says Roland has a right to free speech is absolutely right, to a degree.

    As journalists, we know up front that our right to have public opinions about hot button issues like politics and social issues has been forfeited. That’s the sacrifice you make to practice your craft. There are scores of us who work in jobs that aren’t as high profile as Roland’s who would not dare voice these opinions on social media accounts associated with our jobs.

    I don’t think Roland was advocating gay bashing. What he said was insensitive. Everything he said about the Beckham ad and that guy in the pink suit implied that there was a lack of masculinity and a presence of homosexuality. If he were anyone else, those folks who were offended would call him an asshole and keep it moving. But because Roland is in a very visible place and represents CNN, TV One and ABC radio indirectly with his affiliation with the Tom Joyner Morning Show, he has a bigger responsibility to keep his mouth shut.

    Should he be fired, I don’t know. Reprimanded, absolutely. He is old enough to know better and been in this business long enough to know better. Social media is fairly new and mistakes will be made. He needs to recognize this as such and go ahead and apologize and make it right.

  18. Yoli

    February 6, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    Really? It was a silly comment, but that’s the man’s twitter account. People should expect Roland “unplugged” if they follow his tweets. The comment wasn’t “gay bashing”. The tweet sounds like he didn’t like the commercial or the product, and thought that any guy (having nothing to do with sexuality) who did was stupid. His opinion, and he has a right to it. The best place for him to express that opinion in the age of social media probably is his twitter account.

    People should react to Roland as they see fit, but he shouldn’t lose his job of it.

  19. aarcpa

    February 6, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    People need to get over themselves. I would never thought that comment was gay bashing. We can’t joke anymore without someone getting offended. GLAAD needs to a life and focus on real issue affecting them and Roland Martin comment isn’t one of them. We are getting to the point were we can’t saying anything to anybody. Time for people to live life and get a life.

  20. David Hamer

    February 7, 2012 at 1:03 am

    All I can say is BLOWN WAY OUT OF PROPORTION!!! I’m gay and get the humor. His comment was not offensive in the least. People need to grow up and get over themselves. There is too much of this “they hurt my feelings”, “they said this, they said that”. Who gives a crap. I hear either a bit of man crush on hot David Beckham, or a tad bit of healthy admirable jealousy…NOTHING MORE!!!! GAWD this country has gone to shit. Everybody up in arms over nothing. GROW THE HELL UP PEOPLE!!!

  21. Tiffani

    February 7, 2012 at 9:40 am

    I agree Roland has a right to free speech, to a degree, and unfortunately, he’ll probably lose his job. I also agree that people are being overly sensitive. “slapping the ish out” of somebody, one, is a slap. It’s not beating somebody to a pulp and sending then to the hospital or to the grave. It’s smacking some sense into them. When the NAACP speaks out against a racist act, everyone just rolls their eyes and claims “racism doesn’t exist anymore.”

    True, we need to teach younger generations a better way to solve and express their problems without fists (like the young man who beat up a guy nearly to death in my town, then came to CHURCH to try and finish the job).

    The problem isn’t the words, (I know, I know, there are the “power of suggestion” and words become action” theories) it’s the knuckleheads who don’t have a mind of their own to think before they act, and don’t realize the consequences of beating someone up for who they are or what they like, especially since the hate crime law was enacted.

  22. Jeff Winbush

    February 7, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Rene, I can’t say I know Roland Martin, but I’ve met him and sparred with him over other issues. Roland is passionate, articulate, smart and he fights for what he believes in. He also rocks an ascot, but we’ll let that pass.

    I don’t think Roland should be fired for his Tweets. He should be educated and learn how homophobia hurts. This is the proverbial “teaching moment” and rather than hang Mr. Martin out to dry, I would urge GLAAD and other gay activists to use this opportunity to show Martin and the Black community that discrimination and bias is unacceptable no matter who is doing it.

  23. Kathy H

    February 8, 2012 at 5:46 am

    I don’t know Roland personally, but anyone who watches CNN with any regularity knows that he often makes remarks “off the cuff”. That’s just his persona, and he doesn’t seem like the type to actively filter what he says.

    I am extremely protective of my gay friends, and a proud supporter of gay rights, and I would never speak for the gay community, but when I asked them, my gay friends did not take his comments as gay bashing. In fact, all of my gay friends thought it was a poke at the ad, and David Beckham. Many thought it was funny, and one actually said that “no self-respecting gay man would find David Beckham attractive, no matter what the underwear”, (that is a direct quote).

    The lesson as you aptly pointed out, is how we now have to be very careful in what we say on social media. I once made a simple comment on facebook, that supported something the president said in a speech. That cost me several pieces of business and 8 different people “unfriended” me. In my opinion, it was worth it. I don’t want to do business with, or be friends with, anyone who would berate someone for having an opinion that does not match theirs. It was however, a very surprising reminder of just how social media impacts our everyday life.

    While I don’t agree with the comments that Roland made, I think asking for his resignation is a bit on the harsh side. In this day and age, we have plenty of ammunition for proving that we have a long way to go before we achieve tolerance in this country. Prop 8 in California and the whole “birther” mess are some prime examples. Bigots, racists and homophobes are everywhere, and surprisingly blatant about it. Just as we need to have a zero-tolerance policy for hate, violence, etc., I think we also need to differentiate between a vicious hateful remark that is intended to spread intolerance, and a poorly worded off-the-cuff remark that could be taken more than one way.

    I would like to think that Roland’s remarks were simply commentary on an ad, and while insensitive, were not mean-spirited. If I believed he truly advocated violence against anyone, I would be the first one calling for his resignation. But I would add one word of caution – None of us is perfect. We all say insensitive things, make misstatements, and in an attempt to be funny, I have more than once completely flubbed what I intended to say. Thank goodness those instances were not played out in front of the public, or could possibly cost me my job. In other words….let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  24. Rob Robert

    February 8, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Roland has been suspended. Yes I think he should be removed from the air first of all the man has not apologiged he is covereing it up giving the excuse of soccer teasing. Hello? I have listened and been on his FB page for four or five years and this is NOT a sole incident he is always mouthing off little cracks towards the gay community in his cocky aire. I think #1 he should be suspended I also think #2 It should be a requirement that he can not come back until he takes sensitivity training in regards to gays #3 He should be told to do a story on gay bashing. And he has his nerve mentioning the football player in pink, HELLO ROLAND you wear an ascot!

  25. ladyjoe

    February 8, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    This is so unnecessary. If you put the entire saying in context with a male football party, then you understand what he meant. Remember, these men who are suppose to be “quote” so manly, so I can see what he was saying as being a joke. Not putting gay people down. My god people…this country has people eating out of garbage cans and kids being sexually abused, people unemployed and not to mention our crazy politicians who cant get a damn thing done anymore. We have got to focus on things that are worth focusing on. I am not saying don’t give the gay community there civil rights, but what I am saying is…Martin did not kill a gay man or woman. He made a silly joke, (it was indeed stupid) with regards to men who think they are so manly when they watch a dat blasted game! You don’t ruin a persons life over that. His comment is truly not deserving of this type of outrage. Pray people, pray for the minds of our country!

  26. Dena McNeil

    February 9, 2012 at 11:28 am

    I am opposed to any type of bullying or bashing of any group. I just don’t see it here. I think he was being silly or crude but I certainly don’t believe that he was advocating violence against gay people. I also don’t believe that he should loose his job behind this tweet. What GLAAD needs to consider is this. People will begin to go underground with how they really feel and agree publicly to avoid problems and then the discussion on these issues will effectively be closed but feelings/ideas may not be changed. I think this is what happed with prop 8. When polled most people were publicly against prop 8, but when they went to the polls they voted a different way. People will do whatever necessary to avoid public heat.

  27. Christopher Parish

    February 9, 2012 at 11:36 am

    As a gay man myself, I feel that Roland was advocating violence against gay men. I am glad that CNN has suspended him. I think everyone is forgetting just because you have the right to free speech, doesn’t mean you SHOULD say or tweet things like this. What is right is not always popular, what is popular is not always right.

  28. Dena McNeil

    February 9, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I agree that CNN should have suspended him and perhaps he can come to see how his crude remarks were hurtful. I think that people such as Roland Martin are easy targets, but essentially are a waste of time and energy in terms of comming together to attack him. It’s really sad to me how many Muslims hold extreme views and in Muslim countires gay men and women are killed and jailed for being gay. There is silence in the gay community. All Muslims certainly aren’t homophobic, but it’s curious to me that I have seen many churches protested against, but not one Mosque.

  29. Marsha Lee

    February 9, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I am sure Roland was just trying to make a joke among friends. He meant no violence against gays. A short suspension, but not a firing offense. We miss him.

  30. Victorio Loubriel

    February 10, 2012 at 9:28 am

    As an African-American I don’t care for any racial. Religious or ethnic jokes. Often times they are a reflection of the person’s real feelings and if said by someone of influence the joke may lead to inspire others who really do have a Hate agenda. Do I believe that Roland is a bigot in anyway, absolutely not. Do I feel he meant this as a joke, I really do believe he did. However, all of us must be mindful of the feelings and civil rights of others. A few years back I remember Jimmy the Greeks comments which got him fired. In Jimmy’s case, that’s ignorance and was deeply offensive to African-Americans. Do I believe Jimmy is a Bigot, well no, but he like so many others are ignorant and their ignorance inspires others. Does Roland’s comment rise to level of Jimmy’s, actually no. But their is no such thing as being a little Pregnant, either you are or you are not. Therefore, Roland should publically apologize and as we do in the work place and the media is his work place, require him to take some sensitivity training and let the Network make a determination whether he is still a viable contributor. After all, the networks aren’t kicking Rush Limbaugh off the air and look at how racist he is, along with Hanity, Beck, and O’Rielly and so forth. I’m sorry many of these people are allowed to speak in Code.

  31. Will Jones

    February 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    He screwed up. It’s gonna cost him, and if that’s what it takes to get him to watch his mouth, then it probably should cost him.

    It’s a big world, full of a lot of different kinds of people; different colors, ages, races, religions, sexual orientations, and beliefs. Roland knows ALOT of people, which means I’m sure he has friends that fall into most of these groups, including gay friends that he wouldn’t have made such a stupid remark in front of. The key is, not to say anything about a group of people that you wouldn’t say in front of that group of people. Now no one’s perfect and everyone is guilty of putting there mouth into drive before warming up their brain from time to time, BUT those in the public eye are going to be watched more closely than the rest of us and hammered for making mistakes like this, so they need to be more careful. Is that fair? NO. But that’s how it is.

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