Hosts of “The Broadcast,” a morning show from Dallas television station KTXD, probably could have used a referee on Tuesday during a heated argument about football player Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend on ESPN. The Kiss happened when Sam learned he had been drafted by the St. Louis Rams, becoming the first openly gay football player drafted by any NFL team.
Two of the four hosts — Suzie Humphreys and Amy Kushnir — echoed criticism we’ve heard from religious-right groups who were offended by The Kiss. When a fellow host noted that the NFL had moved to penalize a player for mocking Sam and The Kiss on Twitter, Humphreys and Kushnir responded with disgust.
Humphreys even tied the issue into the controversy about recently publicized racial comments by Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. The NBA has fined and banned Sterling for life for those offensive comments, which were made during a recorded phone conversation with his girlfriend. Reactions to the Sterling and Sam incidents raise concerns about freedom of speech, Humphreys suggested on The Broadcast:
“I’m shaking my head because people don’t have the right to express the way they feel if it offends somebody else. I live in America. I still feel like I have the right of freedom of speech, and I don’t have to be penalized for my own opinions, especially in my own house, that I have that right as an American.”
Of course, the First Amendment protects free speech from government interference, not from the actions of private employers and business associates. But that distinction appears lost on Humphreys.
Kushnir joined with Humphreys in criticizing ESPN for showing Sam kissing his boyfriend.
“It’s being pushed in faces,” she complained, before storming off the set during the show. “I don’t want to see that.”
Religious-right groups have been pushing pretty much the same message. They haven’t, of course, complained about athletes and others who share celebratory kisses with their opposite-sex spouses/girlfriends/boyfriends on television. Their problem is with the The Gays.