Don’t Press Send, Doyle
Each year before the season starts, the National Football League (NFL) holds a rookie symposium, an “Intro to Professional Football” class, of sorts, to help get young players prepared for their lives in the spotlight. In 2011, former NFL player, head coach, and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards spoke at the symposium. Like him or not, he has always had a bit of gravitas to him, the older man full of wisdom who is all about telling it like it is, who is all about tough love. In that talk to the players, he warned them of the dangers of social media now that the public will listen to what they say. Most memorably, he told them that if, in a moment of heightened emotion, they feel the need to tweet something inappropriate, mean, stupid, or controversial, to pause a beat and “don’t press send.”
Perhaps legendary poker player Doyle Brunson should have heeded Herm Edwards’ warning a couple weeks ago. In a minor controversy that went a bit under the radar, Brunson tweeted, “I can’t believe Bruce Jenner is trying to become a woman? He was a hero of mine since I was involved in track long ago.#Sayitsnottrue”
The person Brunson was referring to, Bruce Jenner, is one of the greatest track and field athletes in United States history. He won the 1976 Olympic gold medal in the decathlon, an incredibly rigorous event composed of ten different contests that tests a competitor’s all-around abilities, setting the world record in the process. He was a huge celebrity for a while and went on to have a short, relatively non-descript television career. After fading from the limelight for a couple decades, he began to increase his visibility with appearances on reality and game shows after the turn of the century. Since 2007, he has starred on “Keeping up with the Kardashians” on the E! network, once again becoming extremely well-known, but to a much different audience than before.
After years of rumors, it has come out that Jenner is transitioning from a male to a female, a change that has garnered that much more attention because of the spotlight he and his family has been under as the result of the television show and social media.
Hence the above tweet from Brunson.
Over the course of a few days spanning the end of January and beginning of February, Brunson’s Twitter followers, friends, and poker colleagues chimed in, many criticizing him for his comments. He didn’t stop there, though. On February 3rd, he wrote, “I remember the pride I felt when Bruce Jenner ran around the track waving an American flag after setting records in the Olympics. Bruce’s transition to a woman was confirmed today. He may still be some peoples [sic] hero, but not me.”
One of Brunson’s most outspoken critics in the Twitter conversation was poker player, personality, and ESPN World Series of Poker floor interviewer Kara Scott. In a series of tweets, she wrote:
You have such a huge reach & the potential to be a powerful voice for good. Esp as someone who’s [sic] life was seen as unconventional. Transphobia & being treated as wrong are behind the scary high suicide rates for trans people. Also, high assault & murder rates. The very real courage it takes to come out & face hatred & ridicule IS heroic in my view. Their very survival is sometimes the cost. If Bruce is Trans then it was probably more painful for him to live constrained & hiding than it was for you to lose him as a hero.
When reading Brunson’s tweets about his recent bout with cancer, I actually saw his posts about Jenner, but I just shook my head and moved on, chalking them up as the remnants of a generation that has trouble dealing with anything non-traditional and frequently longs for the “good, old days,” even if those days weren’t as great as they think they were. Doyle Brunson has been known to not be shy about espousing his personal and political beliefs on social media, and whether or not I agree with things he says, I tend not to get too worked up about any of it.
It is interesting, though, that the celebrity gossip site TMZ.com picked up on Brunson’s comments, bringing them out of the small circle that is the poker community and into the larger public’s consciousness. TMZ may be garbage media, but a lot of people pay attention to it.
Of course, people are entitled to their opinions and their beliefs. People are also entitled to say whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want. But just because we have the right and ability to say whatever we want doesn’t mean we should say whatever we want. We have to learn when to bite our tongues. Bruce Jenner’s very difficult and personal decision obviously struck a chord with Doyle Brunson and affected him in some sort of personal way. But he needs to understand what it means to have a filter. We all need to heed the old adage, “Discretion is the better part of valor,” sometimes. Sure, we have our thoughts and feelings, but it is not always worth hurting people just to exercise our right to voice our opinion.
It’s our right, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.