by Damon C. Williams
PHILADELPHIA, PA (NNPA)—Tight spirals and touch passes weren’t the only things tossed around on Super Bowl Sunday. CNN’s popular news anchor Roland Martin allegedly threw around a number of homophobic tweets Feb. 5, which led to CNN suspending the charismatic host.
|SUSPENDED—Roland Martin arrives at the USA Network and The Moth’s “A More Perfect Union: Stories of Prejudice and Power” Characters Unite storytelling event in West Hollywood, Calif., Feb. 15. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
“Roland Martin’s tweets were regrettable and offense,” read a statement from CNN, in outlining its move to censure Martin. “Language that demeans in inconsistent with the values and culture of our organization, and is not to be tolerated. We have been giving careful consideration to this matter, and Roland will not be appearing on our air for the time being.”
It remains unclear when, or if, CNN will bring Martin back.
According to several news outlets, Martin made numerous tweets that could be taken as promoting anti-gay violence. In one tweet, Martin allegedly advocates beating any man who enjoyed the David Beckham underwear commercial, and in another, he champions a similarly styled beating for a New England Patriot player who wore an all pink suit.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation spokesman Rich Ferraro also released a statement condemning Martin’s tweets, while applauding CNN for its action.
“CNN took a strong stand against anti-LGBT violence and language that demeans any community,” Ferraro said. “We look forward to hearing from CNN and Roland Martin to discuss how we can work together as allies and achieve our common goal of reducing anti-LGBT violence, as well as the language that contributes to it.”
For his part, Martin has received and accepted GLAAD’s request for a meeting of the minds, and exchanged tweets with GLAAD, thanking it for the invite and confirming his attendance.
Even the National Association of Black Journalists—usually a staunch defender of one of its own—issued a measured statement in response to the CNN—Roland Martin Twitter affair.
“This is a teachable moment for all journalists. We are reminded that what we communicate in print and broadcast —and now through social media—has considerable power,” said NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr., through a statement released by the organization. “NABJ does not support any commentary in any medium that is insensitive or offensive.
“Mr. Martin is one of our most committed members,” the statement continued. “In lieu of his presence on CNN, until this matter is resolved, we encourage the network to continue to present a diverse offering of voices in its programming.”
While some may see Martin’s words as off-the-cuff comments that weren’t meant to offend, other claim that these types of comments, if left unchecked, that can lead to deadly, hate-fueled confrontations.
In the report, “Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Infected Communities in the United States, 2010,” the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that LGBT-based violence increased by 14 percent from 2009-2010, the latest year of available data. It also showed that hate violence murders are the second highest they’ve been in ten years. So little wonder then that some draw a correlation between hate speech and hate acts.
“I happen to be a big fan of Roland Martin, but I do believe, in terms of prejudicial remarks, that the rules apply and need to be equally enforced,” said Equality Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin. “In this case, I applaud CNN for standing up against prejudicial remarks.”
The Philadelphia-based Equity Forum is a non-profit whose mission is to advance the civil rights of the LGBT community through education, and for Lazin, the first thing that needs to be taught is how damaging and effective words can be.
“What we are seeing here is, whether you’re talking about women, African-Americans or Jews, there’s a certain moment in time when society accepts and incorporates prejudice, until it gets to a certain tipping point,” Lazin said. “And you know you’ve reached that tipping point when society no longer tolerates that type of language.
“When that occurs, particularly with public figures, whether that opinion truly expresses the feelings of that person become irrelevant.”
Lazin feels the explosion of social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook has led to a slight increase in the volume of hate speech floating about, but believes things are starting to turn around, thanks to education and stiffer prosecutions for those committing hate crimes.
“In particular, I think things are starting to turn,” Lazin said. “I think people are connecting speech and the violence that has occurred in gay youth, and it’s important that people have a better understanding of that,” Lazin said. “In Nazi Germany, when a certain speech is allowed, we saw what the ultimate results were. We saw the same things with African-Americans, when disparaging language led to lynchings.
“We see the same things in terms of homophobic speech.”
(Special to the NNPA from the Philadelphia Tribune)