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Old 09-24-2014, 08:01 PM   #1
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Default Free speech and sports press

Lots of different press-related incidents lately, so I thought it would be as good a time as any to start a discussion on the relationship between major sports corporations and the media that cover them. Admittedly, this isn't 100% a first-amendment issue, since these are private companies defending their own brand image, but where is the line drawn?

http://www.si.com/nfl/2014/09/24/esp...s-bill-simmons
Most recently Simmons, who I mostly disagree with, said some things I do agree with in a less-than-polite way. Further, the podcast he was on-- the BS report-- is an ESPN product and not merely something Simmons did in his offtime.

A transcript of the offending piece
Quote:
I’m just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying. If you put him up on a lie detector test, that guy would fail. For all these people to pretend they didn’t know is such f--king bulls--t. It really is — it’s such f--king bulls--t. And for him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted. I really was.
also
Quote:
"If one person says that to me, I’m going public," Simmons said. "You leave me alone. The commissioner’s a liar and I get to talk about that on my podcast ... Please, call me and say I’m in trouble. I dare you.”
ESPN said,

Quote:
“Every employee must be accountable to ESPN and those engaged in our editorial operations must also operate within ESPN’s journalistic standards. We have worked hard to ensure that our recent NFL coverage has met that criteria. Bill Simmons did not meet those obligations in a recent podcast, and as a result we have suspended him for three weeks.”
I have to support ESPN's ability to control it's brand, but I also have to support Simmons for speaking his mind on his podcast. Also, what if it's not just ESPN that was offended, but their partner (the NFL) that ESPN was afraid Simmons hurt? Employees -- particularly those in public jobs obviously can't do whatever they want with complete impunity, but neither should corporations be able to control the speech of their employees at all time either.

Thoughts?

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Old 09-24-2014, 08:57 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EricaLubarsky View Post
Most recently Simmons, who I mostly disagree with, said some things I do agree with in a less-than-polite way.
Do you mostly read or watch Bill Simmons? Because I tend to disagree with a lot of what he says, but I almost always agree with what he writes. His opinions are much more thought-out when he takes the time to write them, as opposed to his off-the-cuff remarks on live television (his NBA draft coverage is especially atrocious).

As for his opinions in this piece? He once again hits the nail on the head... And I find it very interesting that it was posted on SI.com instead of his own website, Grantland.com (which is owned by ESPN/Disney).
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Old 09-24-2014, 09:21 PM   #3
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Hmmm. Only read him before today, when I had to go hear him. Then again I only really care about the Mavs and casually interested in the NFL so I'm only going off of his written opinions of the Mavs and the occasional big story like Goodell's inevitable march toward a layoff. May have to pay more attention now.
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Old 09-24-2014, 09:32 PM   #4
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https://twitter.com/darrylwalter/sta...60768387674114

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Old 09-24-2014, 11:42 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Underdog View Post
Do you mostly read or watch Bill Simmons? Because I tend to disagree with a lot of what he says, but I almost always agree with what he writes.
Ain't that the truth. The substance (and form, IMO) of his writing is in a completely different stratosphere than what he says live. I think he's pretty awful on TV, and I don't think his podcast is much better.

As for the more general thread topic, I'll note that freedom of speech and freedom of press have no application to a private employer like ESPN (or any other company or individual). A private company or person can censor your speech or press all they want. Your right to free speech and free press only prohibits censorship by the federal or state government. That's it.

That being said, I always think it's funny when a company like ESPN pays someone like Bill Simmons tons of money to speak his mind, and then censors or punishes him when he does. It's not a violation of his rights, but it's sure hypocritical coming from a company that's made millions of dollars off Bill Simmons and his various creations (Grantland, 30 for 30, etc.).
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Old 09-25-2014, 09:29 AM   #6
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When he stated the following...
"If one person says that to me, I’m going public,"

what is it that he is going to go public with? more damning evidence?
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Old 09-25-2014, 10:39 AM   #7
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Interesting.
I agree that there is no First Amendment issue. Nothing in the Constitution would prohibit a private corporation from suspending an employee for something he has said. But with that out of the way, I don't think suspending Simmons was necessarily a wise move on ESPN's part. I think a lot of people right now feel the same frustration with Goodell that Simmons was expressing. ESPN might be smarter to distance themself from Goodell than to be seen jumping to his defense.
In terms of whether corporations have too much power to restrict employees' speech/actions, sure I think they have too much power that way. I just don't see a quick way of using the Constitution or the courts to fix that problem, in a country whose courts have declared that corporations are people and have free speech rights and all other constitutional protections. If an attempt were made to try to block companies from censoring their employees, that attempt is going to be judged a violation of the corporation's First Amendment right to free speech.
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Old 09-25-2014, 02:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bunkmoreland View Post
In terms of whether corporations have too much power to restrict employees' speech/actions, sure I think they have too much power that way. I just don't see a quick way of using the Constitution or the courts to fix that problem, in a country whose courts have declared that corporations are people and have free speech rights and all other constitutional protections. If an attempt were made to try to block companies from censoring their employees, that attempt is going to be judged a violation of the corporation's First Amendment right to free speech.
Well, a corporation is made up of people, some of whom would be the employers or 'bosses'. In today's politically-charged atmosphere of twitter rage and adult temper tantrums, a negatively-perceived comment from one employee can reflect badly on every other person in the company. As a result, it's not surprising that some people in charge of a company will take a vested interest in the opinions of employees in order to ensure they are with the mob and not against it.

Perhaps instead of figuring out which people should be legally permitted to censor which other people, society should be figuring out how to just agree to disagree in a civil manner. No more thought policing and outrage peddling.

Food for thought: If corporations are supposed to be profit-driven, mindless machines that cannot have a conscience, then shouldn't they do away with any green initiatives, charity, or corporate social responsibility policy that goes beyond mere legal compliance? Unless that solar panel on the roof is cheaper per kW than fossil fuel, someone needs to be fired for putting their conscience ahead of profit, right?
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Old 09-26-2014, 09:37 AM   #9
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Well, I'm sure many of the people that are throwing a fit about Simmons getting suspended are the same people that wanted Sterling gone for what he said in the privacy of his own home.

I suppose it depends on what side you're on as to how much of a fit you throw.

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Old 09-26-2014, 03:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Perhaps instead of figuring out which people should be legally permitted to censor which other people, society should be figuring out how to just agree to disagree in a civil manner. No more thought policing and outrage peddling.
Sounds reasonable to me.

Quote:
Food for thought: If corporations are supposed to be profit-driven, mindless machines that cannot have a conscience, then shouldn't they do away with any green initiatives, charity, or corporate social responsibility policy that goes beyond mere legal compliance? Unless that solar panel on the roof is cheaper per kW than fossil fuel, someone needs to be fired for putting their conscience ahead of profit, right?
Actually, there have been court decisions suggesting that corporate officers do not have a right to "put their conscience ahead of profit" and that doing so violates their fiduciary duties to their shareholders to maximize profit. But because corporate officers can usually make a plausible claim that their alleged altruism is really more of a form of advertising or generally in the interests of the business, courts are not going to get in the habit of overruling their business decisions. So the CEO who installs the solar panels can claim he is doing so to get more liberals to buy into his business.

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Old 09-26-2014, 06:41 PM   #11
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Old 09-26-2014, 10:35 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Murphy3 View Post
Well, I'm sure many of the people that are throwing a fit about Simmons getting suspended are the same people that wanted Sterling gone for what he said in the privacy of his own home.
Great comparison, Murph.
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