The fall out from what commentator Roland Martin tweeted during the Super Bowl is still, well falling. Roland Martin was suspended for tweets that a few predominately white gay advocacy groups characterized as offensive. Roland Martin has already issued an apology but part of his penitence and is go with head hung low and meet with the organization GLADD that led the charge to push CNN to take punitive action against him. Martin suggested that if a male watching the Super Bowl got excited about an underwear commercial featuring soccer star David Beckham, he should be smacked. Most of the Black community, including the founder of Black Men’s Exchange, has condemned the suspension of Roland Martin by CNN. Martin’s wife allegedly blasted both GLADD and CNN on her now deleted Twitter account and she now denies ever making the post. However, the strangest reaction or non-reaction was by National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).
In a statement publish on the NABJ website specifically addressing Martin’s suspension; the NABJ seemed to take a neutral stand. The statement which totals only 80 words reads,
"This is a teachable moment for all journalists. We are reminded that what we communicate in print and broadcast - and now through social media - has considerable power. NABJ does not support any commentary in any medium that is insensitive or offensive.
Mr. Martin is one of our most committed members. In lieu of his presence on CNN, until this matter is resolved, we encourage the network to continue to present a diverse offering of voices in its programming."
However, the U.S. branch of the media outlet Russia Today is raising issues that would suggest that CNN may have racially discriminated against Roland Martin by suspending him for tweets about men being turned on by Beckham’s underwear commercial. In recent weeks, at least white commentators made similar offensive remarks but were not suspended. The comments uttered by CNN contributors Dana Loesch and Erick Erickson were judged by many to be offensive and far worse than what Martin tweeted.
When video of U.S. Marines peeing on dead Afghans surfaced on the internet, Dana Loesch, a white female contributor to CNN, took to her radio program which is carried by a Fox News Radio affiliate station, and said she would have joined the Marines in desecrating the bodies of the Afghans. To justify her comments, she falsely accused Afghans, presumably Taliban fighters, of being involved in the planning and destruction of the World Trade Center and other attacks that occurred on 911. The United States government concluded after its investigation that only Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden were responsible for the attacks and no other governments or organizations. The U.S. military has strongly condemned the act of desecrating the Afghan’s bodies and is seeking punitive actions against the Marines responsible for the reprehensible and barbarous act. However, despite calls for them to do so, CNN did not suspend Loesch for her comments.
Another CNN contributor, Erick Erickson, a white male, made jokes about police violence used against an Occupy protestor in New York when police brutality is a very sensitive issue in the United States. Several people are killed or otherwise abused at the hands of law enforcement officials every year, including the NYPD which of late has been facing a number of scandals including the killing of unarmed teen Ramarley Graham.
If you throw out any potential debate about which contributor, Martin, Loesch or Erickson, comments were the most offensive, you are still left with the fact that Roland Martin was treated differently than Loesch and Erickson. Since Loesch is female and Erickson is male, the only real discernable difference between the three is that Martin is a black male and they are white. It is doubtful that Martin will take his case to court or file a work related complaint for the unequal way CNN appears to deal with its contributors based apparently by race.
Some are questioning the National Association of Black Journalist’s commitment to equal rights declaring in their mission statement that among other things, the NABJ is committed to,
“Sensitizing all media to the importance of fairness in the workplace for black journalists”
Instead, they come off looking unwilling to examine the discrimination aspect of Martin’s suspension who also just happens to be a member of their organization.
The principle parties involved, Roland Martin, CNN and the NABJ may be waiting for the story to exit the three day news cycle but the conversation is hardly over among people where the controversy first erupted, on social media networks.