Over the weekend, the Miami Dolphins swiftly fined and temporarily suspended defensive back Donald Jones after he tweeted that seeing Michael Sam kiss his boyfriend was "horrible." If we're being cynical, it was basically a giant corporation that wants nothing more than to avoid off-the-field controversy administering what amounts to a slap on the wrist in a PR move designed to quash any controversy before it begins.
In the mind of Newt Gingrich, of all people, this was "repression." Fox Sports' Clay Davis wrote a meandering, paranoid column about the internet thought police. A Cincinnati Enquirer columnist used the Jones tweet to lament his perception that we tolerate everything nowadays except people's intolerance. In other words, it pissed off a lot of straight guys.
In short, "OMG," these arguments are "HORRIBLE," but we have more than 140 characters to break it down.
Jones was punished more for being stupid than he was for being homophobic.
The truth is that if Jones had made those comments privately to someone in the Dolphins administration, he probably wouldn't have been publicly reprimanded. There might have been some repercussions, but Jones' very public Twitter comments necessitated a very public rebuke.
As pretty much everyone remembers, the Dolphins are still feeling the fallout of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying scandal, the biggest of its kind in sports history. That involved a lot of homophobic and un-PC remarks. It has often been brought up as an example of why the NFL might not be ready for a gay player.
The Dolphins desperately want to put that all behind them and to show they really are committed to fostering a more tolerant workplace. Jones' very public tweets forced the Dolphins' hand.
Plus, the exact nature of his punishment hasn't been made public, but does anyone think it will amount to much more than a four-figure fine and a long afternoon in the HR wing of Dolphins HQ? Come on. This was all PR damage control.
The Dolphins are a private business.
They're well within their right to reprimand a player for his tweets.
They're also a business that operates in an incredibly diverse and mostly socially liberal market. Jones would have been reprimanded as well for negative comments about the immigrant Hispanic community and Israel or positive tweets about Fidel Castro. In fact, we made many of the same points when the Marlins suspended former manager Ozzie Guillen for professing his love for Castro.
The Dolphins are also a private business desperately trying to strike a deal that will lead to stadium renovations. They really don't want controversy right now.
Telling people to watch their homophobic statements is not repression.
Fox Sports' Travis worries that society is heading to "a terrifying place, a location where words matter more than actions, where the wrong thought is a virtual crime that could cost you your job."
Uh, you know what thoughts can still legally get you fired in large swaths of the country? Thoughts about being attracted to someone of the same gender! Society is still not totally recovered from being a "terrifying place" for LGBT people.
Queer people know better than most that to survive, sometimes you have to not only watch what you say but also how you say it (there are still employers who won't offer you work if they detect a bit too much "WERK!" in your voice), and the repercussions for a slipup can be a lot more severe than just losing your job. So anyone complaining about the rights of intolerant people to be intolerant just comes off completely tone deaf and disrespectful.
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The fact is, tweets such as those made by Jones remind queer people that their very existence is threatening and frowned upon.
Jones' punishment for this is not a rebuke of his entire existence or some part of him that he can't change. He might actually come out of this sensitivity training an enlightened and more mature person. At the end of the day, this might actually be good for him. But let's be real: Do the Dolphins actually care about that? Not so much. They're just protecting their brand. So let's chill out about calling this "repression."