Let's get right to it, shall we: CNN fumbled the GLAAD vs. Roland S. Martin situation badly. The indefinite suspension yesterday of Martin as a commentator for the cable news network due to some of his "tweets" during Superbowl Sunday is something we should all consider carefully because the ramifications could have a severe chilling effect on journalist everywhere, who will find it hard to balance social media banter & fun with followers, as opposed to on-air, paid written commentary for networks and news outlets.
My concern about what has happened with CNN is that the cable network bowed to pressure from GLAAD that Martin's "Barbershop Talk" Man tweets were somehow a) targeted at gay men and b) that he was trying to incite violence against Gays because he used phrases like #TeamWhipdatAss and "ish" which is Roland's term for "shit." The problem with what GLAAD has done here, is that they have been able to tell the world what Martin meant, when he himself was very clear on Twitter on SuperBowl Sunday that he was talking about soccer (which he considers a lesser sport as a avid football fan), and he was poking fun at men who would wear H&M underoos (as Martin called them). Folks, if you know Roland, you know he pokes fun at everyone, regardless of race, class, gender. That is his brand.
While, Roland S. Martin is well known for his loud personality, gentlemanly ascots, flashy suits & ties, cowboy boots, big Texas belt buckles, candor, sense of humor, and his fiery political commentary, the longtime black journalist has been an outspoken advocate against violence of any kind, verbal assaults against black women (citing Jay Z's use of the "B" word in rap lyrics), hazing and physical violence on HBCU campuses by greek organizations or bands (most recently FAMU), and he has been a supporter of the fair and humane treatment of GAY Americans all of his life.
Martin is not, however, a supporter of gay marriage (as I am not), but we all support civility, tolerance and inclusion of gay Americans in our society. I know Roland well. I am both a media colleague and close personal friend to he and his wife Rev. Jacquie Hood Martin. Mrs. Martin, who is an outspoken minister of the gospel and promoter of faith, found herself the subject of personal and severe attacks by some in the gay community via Twitter to such a degree that she had to shut her account down.
Martin, who hails proudly from Houston, Texas, became a household name during the 2008 campaign season as one of CNN's premiere pundits. He is also one of the nation's most prominent African-American male TV personalities and speakers. Hosting his own Sunday Show, Washington Watch on TV One and is a regular commentator on the Tom Joyner Morning Show. To lose his voice and big presence on TV during the 2012 campaign season would be a travesty for us all. Like Martin or not, he is "straight no-chaser" as the old folks like to say, and he brings clarity, intensity, and fun to the political coverage process.
This morning, Roland S. Martin finds himself in the middle of a controversy involving GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) which is an organization that is dedicated to the fair and humane treatment of gays, lesbians, transgender and bi-sexual Americans. Martin & GLAAD have agreed to meet to discuss the matter further. All of this started with Martin's tweets during Superbowl Sunday, which were targeted at the David Beckham H&M underwear line, and men showing up at Superbowl parties dressed in pink. Anyone who knows Martin, knows he is a "man's man." He is a Texan after all, and he is unabashedly opinionated whether on air or on social media. That is his brand.
After this whole incident blew up, as a journalist, myself, I took to calling many of the black men I know, who watched the superbowl to see what they thought about Martin's comments and they all agreed that Roland was being macho, he was being a guy who loves football, and it was cultural in that this is how "Bruahs" (as Martin likes to call his fellow black men) act during sporting events. In my household, we called it "playing the dozens." Roland likes to do that fairly often. But for GLAAD to suggest he was advocating violence against gays is just stunning. It is stunning and inaccurate at best.
In the final analysis, we as journalists, writers, Americans should be concerned when advocacy groups (liberal, conservative, gay or straight) have so much power that they can take the words of an individual and turn them on their head to further their political agenda. That is exactly what GLAAD has done in this instance. Instead of meeting with Martin in private to get clarity on what he meant, they went on the attack and pushed CNN to suspend Martin. Worse, is the fact that CNN suspended Martin for comments he made as a private citizen on Super Bowl Sunday. He was not on AIR making such comments, which might have been more understandable to reprimand him for. All in all, I think Martin will be allowed back on CNN, but not until he has eaten quite a bit of GLAAD crow, apologized (some more), and cowered himself to all of their demands. It makes me wonder, will we see the same Roland S. Martin we all know and love, or will we see a lesser, muted, more cautious man who had the "ish" slapped out of him.