Like everybody else on Super Bowl Sunday, CNN commentator Roland S. Martin was tweeting about the ads, but it was a few he sent about David Beckham’s spot for H&M, which featured the sculpted British soccer star in his own line of unmentionables, that landed Martin in trouble. As the ad ran, he tweeted:
Ain’t no real bruhs going to H&M to buy some damn David Beckham underwear! #superbowl
— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) February 6, 2012
If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl
— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) February 6, 2012
The Houston native and A&M grad’s feed then exploded with accusations of both homophobia and advocating violence against gay people, including tweets from Perez Hilton, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Chris Weidner of Washington D.C.’s Metro Weekly and CNBC’s Keith Boykin. (Read back through Martin’s timeline for the full picture, including the inevitable horrific racist insults thrown back at him.)
On Monday morning, he combined some of his explanatory and defensive tweets into a statement on his blog:
I made several cracks about soccer as I do all the time. I was not referring to sexuality directly or indirectly regarding the David Beckham ad, and I’m sorry folks took it otherwise.
It was meant to be a deliberately over the top and sarcastic crack about soccer; I do not advocate violence of any kind against anyone gay, or not. As anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, anytime soccer comes up during football season it’s another chance for me to take a playful shot at soccer, nothing more.
The statement didn’t reassure GLAAD, which started a petition suggesting Martin should no longer be on CNN, arguing that he has a history of insensitivity when it comes to LGBT issues—including the fact that he has written that his wife, an ordained Baptist minister, “has counseled many men and women to walk away from the gay lifestyle.”
GLAAD’s unsigned article said in part:
At a time when the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that violence against LGBT people was up 23%, we need people in the public eye to speak out against the dangers of anti-LGBT violence, not openly encourage it.
Martin’s tweets today advocating violence against gay people weren’t an accident — they are a part of a larger pattern for Martin.
Martin’s suggestion to “smack the ish” out of somebody may have been meant as a comic exaggeration, but it’s the reason why he’d even comically suggest a smacking that’s the problem: the implication that being hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad (or admiring the way Beckham looks in it) would be unmanly (“ain’t no real bruhs”) or gay. You can unfortunately still hear that kind of talk in any locker room, but should it be tweeted by a CNN commentator (even in a cable news environment that thrives on outrage)?
Martin’s suggestion that it’s really about soccer doesn’t help: people could possibly construe that he has distaste for the sport of soccer because the sport is unmanly, especially compared to the NFL. And the same goes for Martin’s suggestion that an earlier tweet making fun of a Giants player’s pink suit somehow vindicated him.
Of course, many will still find this back-and-forth to be pure political correctness. A cynic might also argue that such insensitivity was merely par for the course given a Super Bowl broadcast that, as Sasha Frere-Jones of the New Yorker noted, was full of “ad after ad that likened women—negatively—to sofas, cars, and candy.”
But GLAAD’s campaign was apparently effective enough that Martin weighed in again late Monday night with a considerably more conciliatory blog post—his “Final Thoughts On Super Bowl-Twitter Controversy:”
My joking about smacking someone, whether it was in response to a commercial or food they prepare for a Super Bowl party or wearing an opposing team’s jersey, was stated in jest. It was not meant literally, and in no way would I ever condone someone doing such a thing.
As I said repeatedly, I often make jokes about soccer in the U.S., and my crack about David Beckham’s commercial was related to that and not to anyone’s sexuality. To those who construed my comment as being anti-gay or homophobic or advancing violence, I’m truly sorry. I can certainly understand how someone could come to a different conclusion than the one I meant.
I’m disheartened that my words would embolden prejudice. 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.
As someone who has spoken out forcefully against bigotry against African Americans and other minorities, as well as sexism against women, I fully understand how a group who has been unfairly treated would be offended by such comments, and, again, I am sorry for any offense my remarks caused.
(UPDATE: As Erik Wemple of the Washington Post reported, CNN issued a statement on the matter Wednesday, saying: “Roland Martin’s tweets were regrettable and offensive. Language that demeans is inconsistent with the values and culture of our organization, and is not tolerated. We have been giving careful consideration to this matter, and Roland will not be appearing on our air for the time being.”)