The Media Column: Outrage towards Kacie McDonnell for verbal slip-up embodies worst of social media

Alex Reimer
June 19, 2019 - 12:27 pm

In the middle of the Red Sox game Tuesday, NESN anchor Kacie McDonnell issued a seemingly random apology for those who don't always watch the network closely. While narrating one of those silly viral video fan highlights the previous night –– some wacky guy at a minor league game was eating mayonnaise directly from the jar! –– McDonnell referred to the man’s tank-top as a “guinea tee.” The off-hand remark prompted at least eight people on Twitter to voice their faux outrage, with one person even tweeting to Linda Pizzuti herself. 

As a result, McDonnell expressed contrition for her remark, drawing attention to an incident that few outside of the Twitter peanut gallery seemed to notice. “I’d like to take a minute to apologize to our viewers, in particular, those who I offended by an insensitive comment in my report (Monday) night,” she said in a somber tone. “There’s no excuse for my use of hurtful words, and, again, for that, I am truly, truly sorry.” 

As of Wednesday morning, four articles have been written about McDonnell’s apology, including a blurb in the Boston Globe, meaning her insignificant slip of the tongue is now on its way to becoming a viral story. The perpetually aggrieved social media watchdogs can score another win.

The term “guinea tee” is outdated, much like the phrase “wife beater,” which was also once used to describe nondescript cotton tanks. It was a mistake for McDonnell to use the slur on the air, and under those circumstances, an apology is perfectly appropriate. 

But the real-time reaction to McDonnell from a select few on social media, which seemingly prompted her apology Tuesday, was inappropriate. One Twitter user, “Sharon,” said all racial slurs “should be treated equally” and wanted to know why McDonnell wasn’t “fired immediately.” Another person tweeted directly to Pizzuti, wondering why NESN had not yet responded to the outcry from roughly half a dozen anonymous Twitter people. 

Those are some of the folks whom NESN was seemingly trying to placate with McDonnell’s apology. And quite frankly, they’re more deserving of two birds than polite contrition. 

It is not my place to dictate what people can and cannot find offensive. That would be ridiculous. At the risk of sounding like your mother’s yoga instructor, we all experience our own journey and interpret the world in different ways. My life is not your life, and thus, it is outrageous for me to tell anybody how to feel. 

But it is entirely fair for me to say anybody tweeting histrionically about McDonnell is an attention-starved whiner looking to destroy lives for sport. One user, “@riccio14,” tweeted out a video of the questionable clip, saying he couldn’t believe it didn’t draw more negative press –– before tagging the Globe.

Intent matters, especially when it comes to a little-known slur that was once commonly used as a synonym for “tank top.” It’s apparent McDonnell didn’t head into the NESN studios Monday with the goal of saying those words. It seemed to be innocuous, given she uttered the phrase at the end of her riff. 

“A Memphis Red Birds fan is just shoveling mayo from a giant tub into his mouth. That is disgusting!,” she said. “He has a giant spoon there –– looks like he spilled a little on his t-shirt, on his ‘guinea tee,’ there.”

It was a mistake –– simple as that. Should people be faced with the prospect of losing their jobs for innocent screw ups? That is the standard we are setting with each retweet and digital call to arms. 

Obviously, there is a responsibility that accompanies any cushy TV or radio job. There are standards we must adhere to, and those who continually disobey them should suffer the consequences –– just like in any other field. But McDonnell is not a malicious actor. She should be granted the benefit of the doubt here.

Earlier this year, a weatherman at an NBC-affiliate in Western New York was dismissed for saying a racial slur on the air about Martin Luther King Jr., though the four-letter word slipped out of his mouth after he had stumbled over his previous words.“Martin Luther C–n King Jr.,” Jeremy Kappell said. 

Many broadcasters, including Al Roker, came to Kappell’s defense. Mike Greenberg experienced a similar slip-up in 2010 when pronouncing MLK’s name, and was not fired for his mistake. But in today’s world, he might have been. The mob comes for even the vanilla and inoffensive. 

Oftentimes, the exaggerated social media finger-wagging is rooted in bad faith. This is a game of media watchdog for those who are bored at their cubicles. 

McDonnell seemed sincere in her apology. The same cannot be said for those obsessed with calling her out.

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Volin incites riot for writing column about GM movement: General manager movement has never generated so much excitement. As you all know, Volin penned a column Monday stating unequivocally that Nick Caserio wants to leave the Patriots for the Texans. The phrase “Caserio wants out” appears four times in the piece without qualifiers. 

Though Volin never references any sources, numerous outlets, including this one, aggregated the story as a report. That prompted Volin to clarify on Houston radio the piece was about his read of the conflict, which led the Patriots pitchfork army to circle around him and call for his head. NESN’s Doug Kyed says he condemned Volin, because he “cares about his job and wants his colleagues to perform it responsibly.”

It’s hard to figure out how Volin was irresponsible, since he didn’t cite any sources in the piece. He wrote from a declarative position, as columnist sometimes do, but never attributed his musings to anybody else. 

As Volin explained Wednesday on "Mut & Callahan," he’s been covering the Patriots for nearly seven years, and regularly talks to people around the organization. Lots of his opinions are rooted in some form of information, just like this one. But Volin drew the ire of Patriots fans, and some of his fellow beat writers, because he was painting the team in a negative light. That’s the difference here. 

Albert Breer played Twitter: Who says Twitter brings out the worst in people? Earlier this week, Breer tweeted out a photo of his young son’s smashed t-ball participation trophy, implying he destroyed it himself. 

Found out my kid got a participation trophy. Had to be done. #playlikeachampion #fatheroftheyear

A post shared by Albert Breer (@albert_breer) on

Predictably, Breer was subjected to hours of onslaught, before revealing the whole thing was a stunt. 

What did we learn here? People want to be triggered online, and will use any excuse to express their ardent displeasure, even something as lame as a sportswriter writing “fatheroftheyear” under a smashed t-ball trophy.

Get LaVar Ball off TV: At this point, LaVar Ball has proven himself to be, at best, a boorish oaf with a proclivity for making condescending and creepy remarks to female TV hosts. His remark this week about “First Take” host Molly Qerim always being allowed to “switch gears” with him is the latest example of that.

ESPN admonished Ball and called his comment “completely inappropriate.” But if ESPN really wanted to condemn Ball, it would be ban him for its airwaves. Lonzo Ball plays for the Pelicans now, and frankly, is capable of answering for himself. LaVar Ball is only newsworthy, because networks keep putting him on TV. 

Take him off, and save the next female anchor from being forced to converse with him. 

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