Look out! This is me stepping into the fray. This is me sharing an opinion that will likely be popular with some but, strangely, unpopular with many more who fancy themselves to be freethinking champions of the disenfranchised.
Admittedly, I’m not risking anything of significance by sharing this opinion. I write a newspaper column, which means it’s my job to have an opinion, the more controversial the better, or so it sometimes seems.
There’s a good chance somebody somewhere will say I’m full of hate or that I’m a “bigot.” But that doesn’t mean I’m risking anything. I know the truth, that I’m neither of those things.
For the record, my opinion has nothing to do with my own personal views on last week’s Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality, better known as the legalization of Gay marriage throughout the entire U.S. Although it’s a sure bet many of you reading this will quickly surmise you’ve already got me figured out, you haven’t.
In fact, my concern today has more to do with an understanding of what it means to be tolerant than it does defining what it means to be married.
That thorny social issue showed up in the sports world last Friday, shortly after the high court’s historic decision was announced. As the social media world went buzzing over the news, Minnesota Vikings defensive back Josh Robinson sent out a series of messages on Twitter.
“Love is love?” his first tweet began, “so what will we say when the 30yr old loves YOUR 10 year old. When the dad loves HIS 6 year old? It’s different?? Yea okay!”
He followed that, with this: “The day one person makes that stand, some may support, but many will say that’s sick! That day I will say “hypocrites” #untilthen”
And finally, he added this in obvious response to the hugely popular Twitter hashtag “Love is Love”: “When did we start defining a word by using that word? Smh. If you really want to know. Love is… 1Cor 13:1-13”
Clearly, Robinson has some strong convictions, no less strident than opinions voiced by those with opposing views. However, he took his argument too far in his initial tweet when he clumsily linked gay marriage to pedophilia. In doing so, he damaged whatever credibility he might’ve had and made himself a target.
But even so, poorly worded arguments get made all the time. Robinson isn’t the first athlete/celebrity to awkwardly voice an opinion and he won’t be the last.
Predictably, the media backlash – social and otherwise – toward Robinson was swift and severe. On social platforms, where anything goes, he was called all sorts of unkind names (many of them too vial to be repeated here) and his religious views were mocked.
It’s one thing to be scorned on social media, but even in the “mainstream” press, Robinson’s tweets were referred to as an “anti-gay rant.” Even there, where you’d figure there would be some effort at objectivity, he was ridiculed as a nutcase and not someone who had a politically unpopular opinion.
It’s not as though Robinson’s right to free speech was taken away – it most certainly wasn’t. The issue is, that the same people who might otherwise defend a person’s right to be “controversial” or even “edgy,” now use a sliding scale of political correctness to determine what should be tolerated and what should be mocked.
A few months ago, when St. Louis Rams football players did a “hands up don’t shoot” pose during pregame introductions, and when NBA players wore “I can’t breath” shirts during pregame warm-ups, they were lauded in the media for their willingness to take an unpopular stand.
Look, I’m not naïve, I understand how things work in the age of spins and narratives. The world is an uneven place; he who defines his enemy first usually wins. But when it comes to sports, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the score be kept fairly and that the playing field be level.
Jim Burton writes a weekly column for the Standard-Examiner.