Sermon on the Mound
Curt Schilling Isn’t an Athlete With a Dumb Opinion. He’s a Politician With One.
The former Red Sox ace is catching heat for tweeting a right-wing meme comparing Muslims to Nazis. But he’s not your average bonehead athlete—he’s lobbied for millions in public money, repeatedly stumped for candidates, and considered a Senate run.
We know how this works. A person of some renown—an athlete or movie star or celebrity or anyone with a decent enough Q rating—takes to social media and fires off somewhere between and ill-considered and gallingly stupid so-called thought.
The masses rise up as one, first in indignation, then in mockery. The scalding-hot content and attendant wrath are passed around a like a bottle of rotgut, while the offender huddles with a phalanx of PR professionals, before issuing forth either a palliative non-apology or actual regret. He or she faces some form of punishment from his or her employer, and after a few days the entire incident is more or less forgotten, as the outrage cycle has already cranked up once again, descending in full force on its next target.
Today’s pariah is Curt Schilling, a former star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and the Arizona Diamondbacks, and current ESPN talking head. He decided to share a hilarious meme that he’d fished out of the bowels of Facebook.
It’s since been deleted, naturally, but not before ESPN decided to make Schilling go away for a while, stating, “Curt’s tweet was completely unacceptable, and in no way represents our company’s perspective. We made that point very strongly to Curt and have removed him from his current Little League assignment pending further consideration.”
And of course here’s Curt’s mea culpa:
Yes, Curt Schilling is wrong about Muslims and wrong about the Nazis. Hopefully, someone can explain that to him in a way that doesn’t feel like he’s being subjected to the Spanish Inquisition.
Now, a man who was paid to hurl the ol’ cowhide or rant and currently earns a living grumbling conspiratorially about the plague of PEDs shouldn't be expected to be the most brilliant person on earth, let alone politically correct.
But Schilling isn’t just an ex-jock on the far Right of the political spectrum. He’s an active participant in the political process, and as such his comments should be subjected to a greater level of scrutiny.
While in New Hampshire, a day after the 2004 World Series victory parade, he closed an interview on Good Morning America to stump for George W. Bush, imploring swing staters to “make sure you tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week.”
In 2010, he offered this post-mortem on the special election for the Massachusetts senate seat vacated by the death of Teddy Kennedy, positing that the Democrats’ “arrogance” was the reason for Scott Brown’s surprising win.
“They were up three games to none, and there was no possible way they were going to lose four straight,” he said. That’s the very same election in which Schilling briefly mulled the possibility of running as an independent.
Schilling was without a doubt a political actor when it comes to his now-defunct video game company, 38 Studios, an enterprise that went belly-up, but not before bilking the state of Rhode Island for a 75 million dollar loan, costing the taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of 112.6 million.
Prior to losing fistfuls of cash, the vast majority of which came directly from the public coffers, he still had the temerity to sit down with his dear friend Sean Hannity to hypocritically channel Grover Norquist. “Every dollar I can’t commit to my company that’s paid in taxes is paying a government that I believe is too big and doing way too much that I don’t want done,” he bleated.
When the shit hit the fan, and all of the cooked books were revealed, he pointed a crooked finger at Lincoln Chafee, saying that if the Governor had just kept his yap shut, everything would have been hunky-dory.
If you’ve paid any attention to Schilling’s off-the-cuff, non-sports opinions prior to day, you’ll see that today’s ridiculous, racist tweet is pretty much par for the course.
Back in December, Schilling fancied an installment from this (I hope) one-off cartoon strip called “Libtards” enough to share it with the world.
He also got into a very public spat with fellow ESPN analyst Keith Law about evolution, hammering away at every talking point he could pluck from the Creation Museum. (It was an airing of grievances that, for reasons unknown, resulted in Law’s Twitter privileges being away.) He’s said that over-eager autograph seekers are “like terrorism.” Last November, he advocated sending crack squad of marines to Ferguson.
His Facebook page contains a near ceaseless parade of thuddingly dumb memes and dubiously sourced chain mail-type fodder that your angry, Tea Party-humping uncle sends you at two in the morning—and that’s before you get to his really creepy, extensive collection of Nazi memorabilia.
Not that Curt’s most recent brand of bigotry should require actual debunking, but as Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley wrote, Schilling couldn’t even get the math right this time.
“The claim itself is nonsense. For one, there are about 1.6 billion Muslims, and needless to say there are not 80 million to 160 million Muslim terrorists. (The idea might be related to a poll that showed somewhere around 12 percent of Muslims worldwide would under some circumstances support attacks against civilians,)” he wrote.
“For another, Nazi party membership is not synonymous with support for or participation in Nazi activities; well over 7 percent of the population served in the German army under Hitler, for example. Finally, Germans elected the Nazis to power, but Muslims in general don't take votes on how ISIS and Hamas should behave. Obviously.”
To be clear, there are zero problems with Schilling’s political activism. I think it’s great—even if he and I in all likelihood disagree about almost everything.
But if that’s his choice, and he’s going to sling revanchist, Nativist nonsense, he should expect be criticized accordingly.
At least until Donald Trump names him as his running mate.