Roseanne, the NFL and hypocrisy


Roseanne Barr made an offensive comment about former Obama Administration official Valerie Jarrett. Shortly after, ABC announced they have cancelled the show Roseanne.

That the show was canceled is not shocking. People don’t like offensive and racially charged comments (nor should we).

It’s interesting reading Tweets and comments about the cancellation. Many draw a parallel between Barr’s comments and how some will defend her and say the show shouldn’t be canceled. But some of those same people are fine with the NFL banning players kneeling during the National Anthem. This is pointed to as being hypocritical.

The irony is that the hypocrisy can run on both sides. To think that the players should be able to kneel without consequences yet to think Roseanne should be cancelled is also somewhat hypocritical.

Because in both instances, it shows us that we cannot always say or do whatever we want without that having ramifications on our professional lives.

As a society, there are things we don’t like. We don’t like racist comments. We don’t generally like unpatriotic behaviors. People can say whatever they want. People can take whatever political stance they want to make. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ever consequences.

Neither ABC nor the NFL owes it to Roseanne Barr or the players to promote ideals that go against what they stand for.

Some will disagree with that. “It’s not the same. Players are making a reasonable protest and Roseanne make a comment that can’t be defended.” While we should all be able to agree that what Roseanne said was wrong, millions of people find kneeling during the national anthem just as offensive (if not more offensive) than one woman’s comment.

Roseanne already had a target on her for various other political comments and comments seen as being racially insensitive. It was wrong to make the comment that she made about Jarrett. It’s not shocking that ABC cancelled the show.

But it is an unfortunate situation. It’s unfortunate that in a politically charged country where division is high, we had a throwback sitcom that people of various views enjoyed from a time when there were not such heightened political sensitivities. The new Roseanne had the goal of a show where a family who was divided politically and who was navigating the 21st century could still come together in love. That’s a message that we don’t often hear in the media. Because of an unnecessary comment, it’s a voice that will now go silent.

And the political divide widens.

But I want to take our attention back to the double standards we so often have. If we are ok with either Roseanne being cancelled or with NFL players being forbidden from kneeling, than we must also accept the other can happen too. Because both are examples that freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences of that speech.

We must all remember the power of our words and actions. The Apostle James said: “The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:5). We’re blessed to live in a nation with the First Amendment. It’s a wonderful thing. But let us not assume that words are free of consequences, or that they don’t matter greatly. 

Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.