The recent suspension of CNN journalist, Roland Martin, presents several interesting and controversial points to the surface. Martin’s suspension is a prime example of being a victim of both social media as a platform, and public relations agendas. For those of you who aren’t aware, CNN recently suspended Roland Martin indefinitely due to Tweets during the Super Bowl that the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) found to be offensive:
“Who the hell was that New England Patriot they just showed in a head to toe pink suit? Oh, he needs a visit from #teamwhipdatass
Ain’t no real bruhs going to H&M to buy some damn David Beckham underwear! #superbowl
If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl”
According to GLAAD these Tweets were “homophobic” and therefore encourage violence against homosexuals. Martin retorted these claims by stating that he is not homophobic and that the tweets were not intended to incite any harm towards homosexuals and was only in jest. CNN subsequently suspended Martin indefinitely for the tweets.
I personally have mixed feelings about CNN’s decision to suspend Martin. On one hand , it’s understandable from a PR perspective for CNN to present itself as a so-called politically correct organization that does not tolerate harmful threats towards certain interest groups, and respects the sensitivities of the groups. On the other hand, CNN also presents itself as a pushover organization that will bend to the whim of certain political agenda’s while being ready and willing to throw its staff under the proverbial bus, without analyzing the details. For one of the largest and most reputable news organizations on the planet, I find the actions to be a bit ridiculous.
What details needed to be examined by CNN? Perhaps the fact that the Tweets were personal and certainly not work related – although it is true that Martin represents CNN in all of public communication. Also, none of the Tweets actually present a “harmful threat” to homosexuals, nor were homosexuals as a collective even mentioned in any Tweet. Perhaps Martin is not a fan of H&M and therefore was joking about “smacking” someone for being excited about the commercial. Perhaps he thought the pink suit looked tacky (I certain think it does). I personally do not believe his tweets warranted a suspension, which makes me question if the personnel that decided to suspend him even fully thought about what was being said and the context in which it was said.
We can learn several lessons from this incident. One: If you have a high-profile career, it’s best to keep tweets and/or blog posts as neutral and objective as possible. We are all going to be held accountable for our words, even if our words are going to be misconstrued. Also, can learn that companies can sometimes hurt their image and appear easily influenced by certain interest groups, even if it’s at the expense of their employees. Somebody at CNN AND GLAAD needs a visit from #teamwhipdatass