by Danielle Drawhorn
It has been a rough few months for Houston sports fans, that it seems logical to begin to worry for the SaberCats, the city’s rugby team whose season started the first week of February. In the last few months, the Texans lost their shot at the Superbowl with an embarrassing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Then, the Astros lost all respect because they were caught using cameras to steal their opponents hand signs. While the stealing of signs in the MLB is known to happen, the use of technology to accomplish it is prohibited. Now, their World Series Trophy has no meaning. While Texans fans are still upset over their defeat after an amazing season and committed Astros fans are considering boycotting next season months later, people have forgotten that last October, Rockets manager, Daryl Morrey, nearly lost his job over a single tweet and this event seems to have kicked off the streak of Houston sports upsets.
Last October, the citizens of Hong Kong were protesting the encroachment on their city government by their national government. Residents took to the streets every day to show their contempt for the national Chinese government. Every major news company reported on it nightly, many people in America supported the protestors over the government because Hong Kong is a capitalist city while the rest of China is under a communist. For most Americans communism is still a war being fought because of the communist dictatorship in North Korea, whose leader, Kim Jong-un, has threatened the United States multiple times.
Morrey, like many people, tweeted in support of the protestors, but he could never have anticipated how much that action would cost. Basketball fans in China became very offended that Morrey supported the protests. It was not just the fact that he agreed with them, but because he is the manager of the Rockets. The Rockets team has a close relationship to China because Hall-of-Famer Yao Ming used to play for Houston. It was his career that launched a following for American basketball in China, particularly for his team. Lately, the NBA has been trying to expand their viewership in China where the Rockets are ranked as the second most popular team (The Ringer). Now, the Chinese Basketball Association is cutting all ties with the Rockets and Tencent, a streaming service that showed basketball games in China, has stopped airing the Rockets entirely. Immediately following Morey’s tweet (which was prompted deleted), the owners of the Rockets publicly rebuked Morey for stating his opinion and considered removing him from his position because of the loss of viewership and sponsorship.
The question is not “why is an American commenting on foreign nations” or “why does racism still exist,” the question more people should be asking is “why did these events matter so much and what do they mean for the future of the First Amendment?”
It seems that no expression of opinions is safe for anyone who lives in the public eye. Barr and Morey have shown that personal opinions, whether wrong or right, are not to be said and are not accepted. What really matters is profits. ABC knew that if they kept Roseanne in creation, they would potentially lose viewers and sponsors. Television companies profit off of commercials, but no company would want to be affiliated with ABC if the public thought that they condoned racism. The same thing occurred with the Rockets and Morrey. He was showing support for very American ideals—freedom and rebellion—but he forgot what the most important American value is, money. And lots of it. His tweet cost his franchise not only money, but the opportunity to earn more.
The first Amendment to the Constitution protects free speech. While the founding fathers would never have been able to dream of such things as Twitter and Facebook, their protection should extend to such things considering that social media was created to give everyone an equal voice that could be heard anywhere.
Lately though, celebrities have had this right taken away from them. They are expected to be better than the rest of us, and to not voice their opinions if it goes against the company they work for. To have unique, and sometimes incorrect, views is part of being human. People make mistakes. For most, if they say something incorrect on Twitter the only people who would notice would be their closest friends, who probably have made the same mistakes. In most cases, it would not cost them their job. Yet, society hold celebrities to a degree that the common man or woman cannot attain, that no one of any status can attain. A celebrity is no better or worse than any other human. Yet, modern companies are imposing their ideals onto their employees and are firing them should that employee happen to disagree. It is capitalism at its worst.
And now, the world watches with great anticipation as Megan Markle and Prince Harry step down from full royalty status and move across the ocean while berating the press for infringing on their private lives.
Every television station, magazine, and tabloid is discussing Megan and Harry’s decision to leave. It is a historic moment because nobody has ever voluntarily left the royal status like they have. Megan and Harry have broken with tradition so that they may live their life away from the public. However, their decision has momentarily backfired. They are harassed by the paparazzi even more now, because privacy laws that exist in England to protect the royal family’s private life do not exist in Canada.
Why is it that Morrey faces public disdain and Megan and Harry receive applause and speculation when they do the exact same thing, that is, speak their opinion? The biggest difference is that Megan and Harry provide entertainment. Americans love to watch the British monarchy and smile a little when it fails. Now, Americans have validation from somebody within the royal family that life is not as perfect as they would have us believe.
Nothing that happened to Morrey or to the protesters in Hong Kong was entertaining or fun. Most people were worried about what the Hong Kong protests means for the future of democracy. So, most of society probably tried to tune it out. They knew it was happening but did not actively think about it. That means when Morrey tweeted in favor of the protests and subsequently nearly lost his job, the general public was not paying attention which allowed his boss to act as they wanted.
The new American standard for people in the public eye is simple, either be perfect and ignored or fail where everyone can watch and criticize. American society is now based on entertainment. Those who are flawless are no fun to watch because they only make much of American society feel worthless in comparison. However, watching Barr lose her job over a racist tweet validates many people. Her actions proved to those who argue racism is still a constant battle in this country are in the right. She also allowed a large portion of society to feel better about themselves because they ‘would never do that.’ Her mistake allowed those who are not racist yet inactive members of the fight against racism to feel superior because they could recognize a racist remark and know better than to say something like Barr did.
Tweets never last for long. They can be removed and eventually they fall to the bottom of the feed and are forgotten about. For something so short though, they cause a huge impact that can last for years. Roseanne Barr will never star on a TV show again and will be forced to fade into the background. She will be remembered for the original series of her show Roseanne. Daryl Morrey will be remembered as the Rockets manager unless he transfers to another team. His tweet too will be forgotten in time, in fact, most people already have. Megan and Harry’s decision to leave Britain, however, will be remembered in history textbooks for years to come, yet it might be the least significant thing mentioned in this article. In the public sphere, no matter how large or how insignificant a person is, the only thing that is remembered and that really matters are a person’s actions. Whether they are good or bad is up to society to judge, but generally things turn out okay in the end.