Marshall: Shock Jock Not the Only Offender

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about the Don Imus controversy and his All-Tuberville team.

Until the last 10 days, I was only vaguely familiar with Don Imus. I had never watched or heard his show for more than a minute or two at a time. But like anyone else who has watched cable television, I know a lot about him now.

I wouldn't claim to know what is in Imus' heart. What I do know is he is certainly a not a victim. He has no one but himself to blame for having lost a $10 million a year job. And it has nothing to do with "political correctness."

When Imus referred to players on the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos," he ignited a firestorm. It can be debated whether one radio show host's vile comments were worthy of the attention they received. But he got what he deserved. I don't think I would shrug it off easily if somebody called my daughter a whore on national television, and he called 10 daughters whores.

It's not illegal to be stupid, insensitive, sexist or racist, but there's also no legal right to be protected from the consequences of racism, sexism insensitivity or stupidity.

This is not, as some have tried to make it, a free speech issue. Free speech is a legal concept. Imus can make all the nasty comments he wants, and he won't be charged with a crime or sent to jail. But that doesn't mean he can't be or shouldn't be held accountable by those who pay his salary.

Of this you can be sure: If I had written such garbage in my newspaper, it wouldn't have taken eight days for me to be fired. It would have happened immediately, as well it should have.

CBS and MSNBC aren't exactly heroes in this matter either. They have tried to sell their decisions to get rid of Imus as taking moral stands. But their "morality" didn't kick in until advertisers started dropping like flies.

Imus, of course, is far from the only offender. If anything good comes from this controversy, maybe it will be that the disgusting lyrics in so-called gangsta rap will finally be examined, that others who say nasty and mean things and hurl personal insults in the name of commentary will think twice next time. But it also should be remembered that rappers who demean women and glorify violence are making recordings and selling them. They can be "fired" if people stop buying their poisonous products. They aren't talking on the public airwaves.

We really shouldn't be surprised that it has come to this. What Imus said is just an indication of the sorry state of public discourse, particularly when it comes to television and radio. From national talk shows to shows in our own state, legitimate criticism has been too often replaced by name-calling, belittling and ridiculing.

The Rutgers women's basketball team, which made a remarkable run to the NCAA championship game, didn't invite the controversy or the scrutiny. But it's not all bad for the Scarlet Knights.

A lot more people know about Rutgers women's basketball today than 10 days ago. Tennessee won the national championship, but Rutgers is the best-known women's basketball team in the country. Hall of Fame coach Vivian Stringer and the players who have been in the public eye have handled themselves with class and grace that make Imus look even worse.

Moving on...

On my "All-Tuberville" team in this space earlier this week, I made an unfortunate mistake. I left out one of my all-time favorite Auburn players.

When I was contemplating who the linebackers should be, it came down to Travis Williams and Alex Lincoln for the third spot. I went with Williams, but then I neglected to even include Lincoln as one of the honorable mention choices.

Lincoln arrived as a walk-on, a transfer from Division III Mississippi College, and made himself a great football player and an even greater leader. He played a vital role in Auburn's run to the 2000 SEC Championship Game.

Until next time...

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