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Did ESPN suspend a writer from Twitter for defending evolution?

Keith Law
Keith Law
ESPN

Like a lot of journalists, ESPN baseball writer Keith Law is an active tweeter. But he hasn't tweeted in the last few days. According to a report from Deadspin, that's because he got into a Twitter fight where he defended science and evolution.

"We're told that it's for loudly and repeatedly defending Charles Darwin from transitional fossil Curt Schilling, his Bristol colleague," Barry Petchesky reported. "A source tells us he'll be allowed back on Twitter on Monday."

ESPN has confirmed and obliquely refuted parts Deadspin's report, explaining that Law was indeed suspended, but the network did not give a reason to why Law was suspended.

"Keith's Twitter suspension had absolutely nothing to do with his opinions on the subject," ESPN said in a statement.

What did Law tweet?

Law got into an argument on Twitter with his colleague Curt Schilling. Schilling, a former pitcher, has been on a Twitter tear, talking about national stories like Ferguson and religion. Around a week ago, Schilling went on a rant about how he doesn't believe in evolution, and Law responded by pointing him to various scientific pieces of evidence for evolution:

Law also engaged with some of Schilling's fellow evolution deniers:

Why does the suspension matter?

With the rise in popularity of Twitter and other social media platforms, there have been more and more questions of what a journalist is and isn't allowed to share. Journalists have a responsibility to write their stories fairly, not take stories where a conflict of interest is present, and represent their news organizations to the best of their ability. This is why news organizations — and plenty of companies — have rules in place as to what are proper guidelines for engaging on social media. This is also why plenty of journalists stick a disclaimer that their tweets don't represent their organizations into their Twitter bios.

But this is still a learning process.

Last month, Gawker endured advertiser boycotts after one of their writers tweeted a joke about #GamerGateThe Denver Post suspended a writer for a Twitter outburst in October as well.

And Law's Twitter suspension isn't the first time one of ESPN's staffer has been suspended for what they tweeted. ESPN suspended Bill Simmons from Twitter in 2013 after he criticized one of the network's shows.

What makes Law's current suspension even more fascinating is that ESPN is dealing with fallout for suspending Simmons in September, though that suspension was unrelated to Simmons's Twitter presence. The network suspended Simmons for three weeks after he called NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a liar in the wake of the Ray Rice domestic violence case. The network was criticized for protecting the NFL.

We don't know the implications of Law's suspension, but it's not hard to wonder if ESPN is choosing sides. Schilling hasn't been suspended (he tweeted about Ferguson police tonight), even though both were partaking in the debate. So if you're wondering why so many people are upset with Law's suspension, you can start there. To many, it seems as if ESPN has picked the side of creationists in this debate.

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