I’d never heard of Kyler Murray until recently.
I now know he’s the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner. I also know he posted a few tweets containing anti-gay insults when he was in his early teens.
While I abhor the behavior, I view it through the lens Murray has become.
When asked about the tweets, he tweeted a swift reply: “I apologize for the tweets that have come to light … from when I was 14 and 15. I used a poor choice of word [sic] that doesn’t reflect who I am or what I believe. I did not intend to single out any individual or group.”
Murray refrained from a “boys will be boys” mea culpa. He didn’t try to brush it off as something he did pre-notoriety, either, perhaps because he understands that doesn’t matter. Instead, he took responsibility for actions he now considers inappropriate.
Sure, it’s easy to dismiss such actions because some teens believe, do and say things they shouldn’t. This has become an excuse adults employ too.
“It’s in the past” isn’t a free pass. As we get older and grow in our experience and understanding of the world, we come to regret some past beliefs and things we did and said.
Yet as much as I dislike name-calling and statements that rely on lazy stereotypes and slurs, I’m more concerned about the growing tendency to censure, silence and punish those with unpopular views. Part of free speech is the need to process the messiness that comes from it.
First, we must truly acknowledge that others have a right to their opinions. We must support everyone’s right to say their piece — without fear of recrimination.
Last week, the producers of the Academy Awards announced comedian Kevin Hart would serve as the 2019 host. Almost immediately, Hart’s history of anti-gay jokes and statements came up.
These weren’t youthful indiscretions. Taken in total, Hart’s statements indicate he may hold beliefs that are unpopular among some of his peers.
“One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay,” said Hart in his 2010 special, “Seriously Funny.”
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“I’m not homophobic,” he continued. “I have nothing against gay people. Be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will.”
With hosting the Oscars on the line, Hart refused to apologize for his past statements. He also deleted anti-gay tweets. Ultimately, he was removed as the Oscars host.
While I don’t share Hart’s beliefs, I support his right to express them. If he wants to host a show in a room filled with people who find his statements deplorable, I say we see what happens.
Censoring those with whom we disagree doesn’t change their beliefs. It pushes the way they express those beliefs into the corners, away from where we can have open discussions and learn from each other.
We also run the risk of sugarcoating reality.
In November, an El Paso mother called out a Southwest Airlines gate agent for allegedly mocking her daughter’s name.
The girl is named is Abcde — the first five letters of the alphabet. It’s pronounced “ab-seh-DEE.”
Traci Redford told KABC-TV the worker made fun of Abcde’s name within earshot of her daughter.
Redford later learned the gate agent took a photo of Abcde’s boarding pass and posted it on a social media website. Redford complained to the airline, which issued an apology.
No one — children or adults — should pick on someone for any reason. The fact that it often happens doesn’t make it OK.
According to KABC-TV, the airline talked with the employee, but Southwest didn’t elaborate about whether additional action was taken. Many have demanded severe action, with some calling for the employee’s dismissal.