Dolphins' Suspension of Don Jones After Homophobic Tweets Was the Right Call
It's getting to the point where it's almost become its own parody. But it's no joke. For the second time in a week, a Miami Dolphins player tweeted out something dumb concerning a player in the draft.
Safety Don Jones tweeted out disapproving comments about Michael Sam -- the NFL's first openly gay player -- being shown kissing his boyfriend as he celebrated being drafted by the St. Louis Rams.
Days ago, center Mike Pouncey tweeted out comments that alluded to rookie hazing.
But Jones' tweet is seen in a more egregious light.
The Miami Dolphins stepped in pretty quickly to try to put out the fire by fining Jones and suspending him from football activities.
The whole thing went down Saturday night after St. Louis took Sam 249th overall. Cameras caught Sam kissing his boyfriend on the mouth, and Jones tweeted out, "OMG."
When asked if that tweet was a reaction to the kiss, Jones responded, "Horrible."
Much like with the Pouncey tweet, Dolphins brass moved quickly to address the situation.
General Manager Dennis Hickey told ESPN.com he was disappointed by Jones' comments.
"That's not what we stand for as an organization," Hickey said. "The draft weekend is a culmination for so many players, their lifetime achievement of their dream to achieve a goal for Michael Sam and all the other players."
Hickey then said he'd sit with Jones and discuss the tweet. And a day later, it was announced Jones was fined an undisclosed amount and suspended from football activities until he undergoes educational training.
For his part, Jones released a statement through the team, expressing his regret for the tweets.
"I want to apologize to Michael Sam for the inappropriate comments that I made last night on social media. I take full responsibility for them and I regret that these tweets took away from his draft moment. I remember last year when I was drafted in the seventh round and all of the emotions and happiness I felt when I received the call that gave me an opportunity to play for an NFL team and I wish him all the best in his NFL career. I sincerely apologize to Mr. Ross, my teammates, coaches, staff and fans for these tweets. I am committed to represent the values of the Miami Dolphins organization and appreciate the opportunity I have been given to do so going forward."
Coach Joe Philbin also released a statement in which he called Jones' tweets unacceptable.
"We met with Don today about respect, discrimination, and judgment," Philbin said in his statement. "These comments are not consistent with the values and standards of our program. We will continue to emphasize and educate our players that these statements will not be tolerated."
Much like Pouncey before him, Jones deleted the offending tweets (actually, Pouncey deleted his entire Twitter account). He also made the account secure, meaning that it can't be viewed publicly unless you send him a follow request.
Some will argue that all the negative attention on Jones is overkill or that the suspension and fine are over-the-top. But the suspension and fine was just the right amount of punishment for this.
Because it draws us to the larger points in all this:
1. The Miami Dolphins Already Have a PR Problem
The Dolphins are the last team that needs to be getting into trouble with insensitive and inappropriate remarks from players. The Incognito-Martin scandal was rife with homophobia and inappropriate behavior. Then Pouncey tweets out a hazing remark, and now Jones reveals that he thinks two men kissing is "horrible." It is a big deal that Jones is being vilified for this, because his comments were wholly homophobic in nature and tone. Sure, he didn't rail against gays. But he didn't have to. "Horrible" put it quite succinctly. Now, that may be his right to feel that way. But the Dolphins are trying to clean up the mess left by Incognito and are in a very zero-policy place right now. A suspension and fine was absolutely the right things to do. Which leads us to....
2. No, This Is Not a First Amendment Issue
Yes, there is a right to free speech. That means that the government can't come after you if you say horrible or inappropriate things in public. We are all free to be as big of an asshole as we wish. However, the First Amendment isn't an employer issue. There are consequences for things you say, even if those things aren't illegal. You can say how much you hate two men kissing all you want. But your employer might have rules against that kind of thing and have every right to punish you however it sees fit.
3. Michael Sam Is Living His Life, So Please Deal With It
We're living in a world that is increasingly more tolerant. And that's a good thing. For some, however, the Jones-tweet thing will only bring out their anger toward the gay culture -- just as many predicted when Sam first came out as gay months ago. But what those people need to realize is that there isn't a large conspiracy to "force" gayness on them or to celebrate something they find offensive and vile. Like many draft prospects, Sam was overcome with emotion when his dream of playing in the NFL was realized and he wanted to celebrate with his significant other. We see this all the time. Young quarterback has his name called out, and he kisses his attractive blond girlfriend. Sam went and did likewise.
Deal with it.