ESPN Cuts Ties With Paul Shirley Over Controversial Haiti Remarks
On Tuesday, Shirley wrote a blog post for FlipCollective in which he suggested that donating money to Haitian relief efforts was not a good idea. In his post, he also implied that victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina were at least partially to blame for their situations.
Shirley anticipated that his comments would be controversial, openly questioning whether he was a "monster" for expressing the opinion he expressed. I don't know if his opinion makes him a monster, but one thing is for sure: It just made him a former contributor to ESPN.com.
In a statement released this morning (reproduced here in its entirety), ESPN said of Shirley, "He was a part-time freelance contributor. The views he expressed on another's site of course do not at all reflect our company's views on the Haiti relief efforts. He will no longer contribute to ESPN."
Paul Shirley is, of course, free to hold and express any opinion he wishes without fear of governmental retribution. The Constitution guarantees him that right. Freedom of speech does not exempt him (or anyone else) from being criticized for any and all opinions he may express. ESPN was well within its rights to disassociate itself from him over his comments.
People inclined to blame Shirley's dismissal on "political correctness" would be well advised to read his post carefully and consider the logical implications of what he suggests. He doesn't seem to think New Orleans ought to be rebuilt, since it could get hit by a hurricane again. He doesn't seem to think people should be allowed to live on the coasts of Thailand and Sri Lanka, since there might be another tsunami. What he suggests for Haiti and Africa is even more extreme. Defending Paul Shirley's right to self-expression is easy. Defending his opinions, which amount to "starve the poor so they don't make babies," is a little more difficult.
It seems that "the rest of the world" he invoked in his open letter to Haiti has also expressed its opinion -- not universally, of course, but loudly enough that ESPN couldn't ignore it.