Harrop: Las Vegas coach learns catch to free speech

Say what you will; it’s a free country. But you’re not immune from the consequences of what you say.

By Froma Harrop / syndicated columnist

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a private employer to get rid of a worker deemed bad for business, he or she can. Such appears to be the fate of Jon Gruden, who resigned as the Las Vegas Raiders football coach after a trove of racist, sexist and homophobic utterings came to light.

An American has an unalienable right to be a jerk, within the bounds of the law. But a company has the right to separate itself from a public figure it feels sullies its reputation. Whether you or I agree with — or are offended by — the sentiments expressed is not very relevant here.

Actress Gina Carano was fired from the cast of “The Mandalorian” and “Star Wars” after she opined that being a Republican nowadays is like being Jewish during the Holocaust. But that was only the last straw. She had previously posted tweets mocking face masks in the heart of the coronavirus plague and suggested, with no evidence, that the 2020 presidential election was riddled by voter fraud.

Carano can be as off-the-wall and right-wing as her dark little heart desires, but United Talent Agency had no obligation to retain a toxic client. Nor was Disney+ bound to keep her on its “Star Wars” franchise.

The Pillow Guy pushed way beyond the bounds of decency by attacking our democratic institutions with moronic lies about the 2020 election results. Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond and numerous other chains had every right to protect their retail environments by purging his MyPillow products from their shelves.

Mike Lindell may have also gone afoul of the law by making false claims that Dominion Voting Systems equipment moved votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. Dominion launched a $1.3 billion defamation suit against him, arguing that these lies hurt its revenues and put its workers in danger.

The left has had its moments as well. In 2017, comedian Kathy Griffin got widely blacklisted after posting a photo of herself holding up a Trump mask covered in ketchup blood. (It was made to look like a severed head.) This was very bad taste that some saw as a threat to the president. In any case, the head incident pretty much ended Griffin’s show business career, save for documentaries about herself.

The Declaration of Independence states that “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” requires that the unhappy parties “declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Gruden provided ample causes. He described the facial features of DeMaurice Smith, the Black executive director of the NFL Players Association, in crude racist terms. He called the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, a “f*****” and “clueless anti-football p****.” He expressed annoyance that Goodell pressured the coach of the Rams to draft “queers,” a reference to Michael Sam, an openly gay player. He suggested that an owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers perform oral sex on him.

In a somewhat related matter, team owners have business reasons for not wanting players to use their time on the field to spread messages on social justice. Kneeling during the national anthem, however valid the underlying concern, strikes many fans as unpatriotic.

There was a time when a football coach would be forgiven almost everything if his team was wildly successful. The list of forgivables is shorter than it once was, and that’s a win for civilization.

At the end of the day, the Raiders ownership was entitled to expect a coach under a $100 million contract to put a lid on offensive remarks. We learn once again that a jerk and his job may soon be parted.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. Email her at fharrop@gmail.com.

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