How far is too far when it comes to punishing people for making inappropriate remarks?
We might have gotten our answer on Friday, when Lilly Diabetes pulled its sponsorship of Conor Daly’s race car in a NASCAR Xfinity race at Road America — not because of something Daly said, but because his father Derek made a racially insensitive remark in the 1980s that only came to light recently.
Lilly justified revoking Conor Daly’s sponsorship in a statement, saying, “Unfortunately, the comments that surfaced this week by Derek Daly distract from this focus [of raising awareness for treatment options and resources for those with diabetes], so we have made the decision that Lilly Diabetes will no longer run the No. 6 at Road America this weekend.”
I wish I was making this up. But I’m not.
I’m not saying that it is OK for people to make racist or inappropriate remarks, especially on social media. Security guard Mike Dargy Jr. lost his job last week after he went to the Buzzard Beach bar in Kansas City, Missouri, where he ordered a drink he called a “Trayvon Martini” from African-American bartender Alobar Bandaloop.
As if the reference to Trayvon Martin, a black teen who was shot to death in Florida in 2012 wasn’t dubious enough, Dargy made things worse when he said the martini should include watermelon juice and one shot of vodka, because “it only [took] one shot to put him [Martin] down!” Bandaloop shared his story on Facebook and Dargy was out of work just a few days later.
I’m not arguing against Dargy’s termination — what he said was reprehensible and I’m probably far from the only person who would feel uneasy about a person with that kind of prejudice carrying a firearm while on the job. However, there is a big difference between Dargy’s case and Conor Daly’s — Dargy is being punished for his own transgressions, while Conor Daly is being punished for his father using the n-word three decades ago.
Even in an era of increased political correctness, it’s hard to look at Conor Daly’s case and think his “punishment” is just. Had Conor Daly used a racial slur himself, Lilly’s action would be understandable and justified. But Conor didn’t — and Lilly Diabetes looks downright Orwellian by punishing him for something his father did before Conor was even born.
How far is too far when it comes to punishing people for making inappropriate remarks? Shortly after he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills this spring, former University of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen found himself on the hot seat when it surfaced that he had posted racist tweets several years ago as a high school student. While Allen was not suspended or released because of the tweets (which he deleted and apologized for posting), not many would have been surprised if he had been.
Again, how far is too far? While punishing people who make inappropriate remarks on social media is definitely justifiable under some circumstances, is it fair to punish people for remarks they made many years ago as teenagers? And it is certainly not fair to punish Conor Daly for his father’s sins, even if Lilly Diabetes thinks that it is.