I won’t lie, I was shocked to see ABC cancel this year’s leading ratings sitcom over its star’s, Roseanne Barr, racist tweet against a former Barack Obama cabinet member. In this day and age, where money seems to rule the day, it was both courageous and refreshing to see a Hollywood entity that is in business to make gazillions of dollars actually sacrifice the Almighty Dollar to uphold its principles.
Roseanne Barr is a staunch supporter of the current president – that’s her business. She has aligned herself with many of his views on race and people who are brown-skinned; again, that’s her prerogative. She has peddled in racism and bigotry for years before this costly tweet and has gotten away with it because, well, she made a lot of money for the TV stations she worked for. She then re-established her larger than life character with the reboot of her record-breaking sitcom this year and received a boost of support from the president the day after her relaunch success. Roseanne was untouchable – or so she thought.
There is no question that the climate in which we live where people feel empowered to spew publicly on social media their bigoted views that were once reserved for private conversations has been ratcheted up over the past two to three years. The impetus for this can be debated – but not with me. The point I’m making is although people, especially those in the highest positions, feel they can disseminate their intolerance and hatred toward people without consequence, they may want to think again. Our society still has much work to do, obviously, but due to the evolution of our race relations and treatment of people in general, there are now many who are in high positions that will not tolerate such primitive behavior. With this in mind, I don’t think it was a coincidence that this groundbreaking decision came at the hands of ABC’s first African American woman president. The more diversity there is in powerful positions, the more we will see unambiguous messages sent that intolerance of people based on race, religion or otherwise will not be tolerated – even if it costs millions of dollars to do so. This was not about political correctness, it was about values over money, right over wrong.
I had recently made the case in a blog that the NFL’s decision to ban its players from kneeling for the flag presentation and national anthem at their games was not a First Amendment violation. The same is true in this case, but what we say and do in public can certainly have severe consequences in our careers. If you post something on Facebook or Twitter that your boss finds offensive and antithetical to the company’s values, he or she has every right to fire you without recourse. In the same way, Roseanne found out the hard way she is not above anyone else who engages in such abhorrent behavior and rhetoric on social media. The only difference is she had a lot more to lose – a lot! Many will inevitably complain that her First Amendment rights were violated – good luck with that argument. The fact of the matter is she exhibited behavior that violated her company’s model of inclusion, equality, and values of diversity.
So, what does this mean for our culture going forward? Does it mean people will now carefully consider the consequences of their actions and refrain from publicly vocalizing their personal views on people? Does it mean we will collectively demand a higher standard from those with large public platforms? I don’t know the answer to either of these, nor does it matter. The most important thing I took from this news is no one or amount of money was a good enough excuse to excuse such intolerable behavior. In the past this may have been okay; had there even been someone else heading ABC, perhaps Roseanne would still be employed. But she crossed the line that had gone too far. She and those who choose to publicly espouse her beliefs on race and religions of a certain kind will likewise have to live with the consequences. I strongly applaud this decision as it was great for ABC, reflective of America, and well deserved for Roseanne.
Categories: Martin Lockett