Monday, August 12, 2013

Jack Clark is the latest to learn that dissenting opinions will not be tolerated

For all of the babbling that people sputter about government censorship, private restriction of free speech is much more prominent. Remember that private restriction of free speech is NOT a First Amendment issue; businesses can, under many circumstances, restrict what their employees may say. For example, I cannot go out and reveal confidential information about my employer (as long as I'm not revealing a criminal act) and then cry that my First Amendment rights have been violated.

And restrictions against employees can also apply to contractors. For those of you who recall the name Michael Hanscom, he earned his fifteen minutes of fame from taking an unauthorized picture at Microsoft.

But there are two more recent examples.

I'll start with something that happened back in 2010. At the time, Rob Dibble was the host of a radio show on Sirius XM, and he made a comment after Washington Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg was removed from a game.

"Okay, you throw a pitch, it bothers your arm, and you immediately call out the manager and the trainer?" Dibble said after Strasburg was removed from a game with an apparent arm injury. "Suck it up, kid."

Unfortunately for Dibble, his comment was poorly timed, since it turned out that Strasburg HAD suffered an injury. But it did offer a potential opening for commentary on older vs. newer players, since it is apparent that modern pitchers do not throw as much as they did in Rob Dibble's heyday.

However, a second newsworthy item occurred, since it turned out that Dibble did not only have a job with Sirius XM, but also had a job as a broadcaster with the Washington Nationals. And the Nationals apparently didn't care for the "suck it up" comment - so they fired him.

Perhaps it's not surprising - in many cases, the last broadcast outlet that will tolerate negative comments about a sports team is the broadcast outlet that carries the sports team's broadcast. I don't think that Vin Scully would be fired if he were to say that the Dodgers are terrible, but there are a lot of team media outlets that will fire someone who says something negative about a current player.

Well, what about a former player? Let's look at St. Louis broadcaster - whoops, FORMER St. Louis broadcaster - Jack Clark:

When [Kevin] Slaten said on the air that he long has believed that [Albert] Pujols “has been a juicer,” Clark said, “I know for a fact he was.”

Pujols, of course, is the former St. Louis Cardinal who recently departed the team and joined the L-- A------ Angels of Anaheim. (As you know, I don't use that team name.) Clark is the former Cardinal who was working on the Los Angeles Dodgers staff several years ago, where he made the acquaintance of one Chris Mihlfeld. Clark claimed that Mihlfeld told him that he had "shot up" a promising young ballplayer in the St. Louis organization - and Mihlfeld wasn't talking about Joe Garagiola.

Well, pretty soon after that radio exchange, both Slaten and Clark no longer had jobs.

WGNU sells its weekday airtime to insideSTL Enterprises, which has a variety of employment deals with the hosts. A source said the arrangement with Clark and Slaten did not have them working directly for that company. So technically they couldn’t be fired, simply not allowed to return.

Early Saturday, insideSTL announced it “has terminated its relationship with Jack Clark and Kevin Slaten. As independent contractors, we want to make it clear that the opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions of insideSTL. Also as independent contractors, insideSTL did not have editorial control over the show’s content.’’

Actually, insideSTL DID have editorial control over the show's content, after the fact. You say something that insideSTL doesn't like, then don't come back to work on Monday.

So what happens next? Well, Rob Dibble was able to get a new job after the Nationals fired him - significantly, on a national radio show (rather than a local radio show). And perhaps Jack Clark may find employment at the national level.

Because at the local level, it's becoming more and more obvious that certain opinions will not be tolerated.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to tune in to the local Los Angeles sports radio shows and see which hosts are demanding that the Los Angeles Lakers get rid of Kobe Bryant.
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