From public officials making offensive comments about celebrities, to private citizens making the same about public officials, bigotry and racism will not be tolerated.
Russian tennis chief Shami Tarpischev, has been banned by the WTA for a year, and fined $25,000 for the “insensitive, sexist and racist” remarks he made about Serena and Venus Williams, referring to them as “the Williams brothers,” and “scary” on a late night TV chat show.
Serena Williams, rated number 1 in the world, said of the “bullying remarks:“
“I thought they were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time. I thought they were in a way bullying…but the WTA and the USTA did a wonderful job of making sure that in this day and age, 2014, for someone with his power, it’s really unacceptable to make such bullying remarks.”
Serena’s sentiment were echoed by Russian tennis player and this year’s French Open champion Maria Sharapova, who said:
“I think they were very disrespectful and uncalled for, and I’m glad that many people have stood up, including the WTA…It was very inappropriate, especially in his position and all the responsibilities that he has not just in sport, but being part of the Olympic committee.”
Tarpischev apologized but indicated that his comment was taken out of context and the incident blown out of proportion:
“I did not want to cause any offence or make fun of any sportsmen. I am sorry that the joke I made, when translated into English, was taken out of the context of a chat show…I don’t think that the incident needed to be blown out of proportion. Everything that was said on the TV show was said without meaning to cause offence.”
Meanwhile in the UK, Garron Helm, 21, was jailed for four weeks for sending an offensive, indecent or obscene message (in a tweet) to Luciana Berger, a Jewish MP from Liverpool Wavertree, who said:
“Hate crime is not tolerated in our country. I hope this case serves as an encouragement to others to report hate crime whenever it rears its ugly head.”
Clair Lindy from the Crown Prosecution Service said:
“It is vital that the right to freedom of speech is upheld but this tweet was so grossly offensive that it crossed the threshold of criminality and was clearly targeted at Luciana Berger because of her religion. This is a religiously-aggravated hate crime and it won’t be tolerated.”
A few months later, Philip Hayes, 53, of Mossley Hill, Liverpool, was fined 120 pounds plus court costs, after he plead guilty to “a racially-aggravated public order offence.” Mr. Hayes accosted Luciana Berger, Jewish MP, twice in one evening and “told” her he hated Jewish people and that the prime Minister of Israel is “your prime minister,” (questioning her loyalty to the United Kingdom), to which she replied “David Cameron is my prime minister.”
Mr. Hayes blames the episode on being drunk, and in a statement he apologized for his behavior and the hurt and offence it caused Ms. Berger:
“Prior to this offence, for over 30 years, I have always tried to fight racism in every form in my personal and professional life. This was a terrible act which I have accepted I committed, but I am not a racist or an anti-Semite.”
Words are powerful and can bring about great good or cause substantial damage, on many levels. The right to free speech does not include hate speech, which society has a vested interest in curbing and eliminating. Hate speech of any kind (racial, ethnic, religi0us, sexual orientation, disability, disease, gender, form etc.), in addition to humiliating and devastating the target and victim, usually escalates soon after to hate actions and crimes. By standing up, calling out and punishing people on hate speech, we are making it clear that this offensive and destructive behavior is not tolerated in civilized society. This is not about political correctness, it’s about grace, respect and dignity, things we all want and deserve for our selves and must provide to everyone else.