NLGJA weighs in on Roland Martin's comments about David Beckham Super Bowl ad

CNN contributor Roland Martin released a second, more somber apology late Monday night after he was criticized for comments he posted on Twitter that many say were homophobic and promoted gay bashing.

Martin said he is "truly sorry" and that he understands how others could come to a different conclusion about his words than what he intended.

"I’m disheartened that my words would embolden prejudice," Martin wrote on his blog. "While public debate over social issues is healthy, no matter which side someone takes, there is no room for debate as to whether we need to be respectful of others."

Richard Prince of the Maynard Institute reports that CNN is weighing a decision on whether to terminate its relationship with Martin.

Gay rights advocates had said Martin’s first apology was not good enough.

After an H&M ad featuring soccer star David Beckham aired during Sunday’s Super Bowl game, Martin tweeted that if a dude is hyped about the ad, “smack the ish out of him.” (The term ish is slang for a foul profanity.) Earlier he also poked fun at a New England Patriots player who arrived wearing a pink jumpsuit. “He needs a visit from #teamwhipdatass,” Martin wrote.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) responded quickly, and harshly, calling for CNN to fire Martin.

On Monday, Martin said his comments were taken out of context, and were meant to poke fun at the sport of soccer, not homosexuals. “I made several cracks about soccer as I do all the time,” Martin wrote on his blog. “I was not referring to sexuality directly or indirectly regarding the David Beckham ad, and I’m sorry folks took it otherwise.”

Martin, who declined to comment further on the matter, added that he does not advocate violence of any kind. But GLAAD and other gay rights groups are not backing down.

“This isn’t a mistake made on Twitter. It’s part of a pattern of anti-LGBT rhetoric that culminated in two tweets yesterday promoting violence towards gay people,” GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro said in an email. “The time has come when CNN and Time Warner have to decide whether they want to continue to use their platforms to elevate those who use such language.”

Ferraro said CNN had not yet responded to the group's concerns or a petition to oust Martin, which currently has about 5,800 signatures. CNN also did not return two phone calls and an email from Poynter.

In addition to being a CNN contributor, Martin is also a syndicated columnist with Creative Syndicate, host and managing editor of TV One Cable Network’s "Washington Watch" and a senior analyst with "The Tom Joyner Morning Show." GLAAD does not believe Martin was simply joking about soccer, and points to Martin’s record of homophobia, including his defense of comedian Tracy Morgan, who came under fire last summer when he made violent homophobic comments.

“Roland Martin has never compared being a soccer fan to being an alcoholic, the way he has compared being gay to being an alcoholic. Roland Martin has never bragged that his wife has led men and women away from the ‘soccer lifestyle,’ the way he claims she has with gay people. Roland Martin has never defended jokes about parents stabbing soccer-playing children, the way he defended jokes about parents stabbing gay children,” Ferraro said. “Based on this history, this doesn’t seem like a playful jab at what Martin considers an inferior sport. It seems like a jab at what Martin considers an inferior community of people.”

Erik Wemple reviewed transcripts of Martin on CNN for the last three months and found no homophobic comments.

Even if Martin was joking, his words to more than 90,000 followers on Twitter carry a lot of weight, David Steinberg, president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, told Poynter in a telephone interview.

People need to weigh carefully what they say, said Steinberg, who is copy desk chief at the San Francisco Chronicle.

“As journalists, we understand that our words carry weight. Whether we speak in a broadcast studio or in bursts of 140 characters on Twitter, we often command national attention -- so it's our obligation to choose our words carefully,” he added.

“Roland Martin says he did not intend to target the LGBT community with his tweets; it's clear, however, that he might have thought more carefully about how his words might be received. LGBT people are often targeted for violence because of their sexual orientation -- and many of our straight friends are targeted because they are perceived to be LGBT. Comments like those tweeted by Martin are an unfortunate reminder of that reality.”

Steinberg stopped short of saying whether he supported calls for Martin’s firing, but added that perhaps this is a teaching moment for organizations like CNN. “It is probably a good idea for us to reach out to Roland and/or CNN,” he said, adding that NLGJA’s Vice President of Broadcast works at CNN.

The National Black Justice Coalition agrees.

“Even if he meant it in a jovial manner, Roland Martin’s words carry a real impact on the everyday lives of Black LGBT people, especially our youth,” says Sharon Lettman, executive director of the coalition, a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“Given the number of rash murders, attacks and violent acts involving LGBT people of color, we cannot let statements such as this go unchecked,” Lettman wrote in an email. “Silence is a form of acceptance and only perpetuates the problem.”

Correction: This post originally misstated Steinberg's place of employment. It has been corrected.

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    Tracie Powell

    Tracie Powell is a senior fellow for Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation established by eBay founder-philanthropist Pierre Omidyar to help ensure that Americans come first in our democracy. Tracie is also founder of AllDigitocracy which focuses on media and its impact on diverse communities. 


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