Tennessee Coach Sues After Being Fired For Tweet Insulting Stacey Abrams

We have been discussing disciplinary actions taken against faculty and students for statements made outside of their respective schools.  The latest involves Chris Malone who was fired as the offensive line coach for The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga after he posted an insulting tweet about Georgia politician Stacey Abrams. The tweet was insulting and sophomoric but the action taken by the university is rightfully now a legal matter before the Eastern District of U.S. District Court of Tennessee.  The defendants who Malone is suing include Chancellor Steven Angle, Athletic Director Mark Wharton and Coach Rusty Wright.

Malone was clearly upset by the Georgia Senate runoff races and wrote “Congratulations to the state GA and Fat Albert @staceyabrams because you have truly shown America the true works of cheating in an election, again!!! Enjoy the buffet Big Girl! You earned it!!! Hope the money was good, still not governor!”

It is a remarkably moronic and childish tweet and Malone deleted it after some of his former players reacted to it. However, he was quickly fired by the university.

Wright issued a statement that

“Our football program has a clear set of standards,. Those standards include respecting others. It is a message our players hear daily. It is a standard I will not waiver on. What was posted on social media by a member of my staff is unacceptable and not any part of what I stand for or what Chattanooga Football stands for. Life is bigger than football and as leaders of young men we have to set that example, first and foremost. With that said, effectively immediately, that individual is no longer a part of my staff…The sentiments in that post do not represent the values of our football program, our athletics department or our university.”

Malone however did not say that his tweet represented the university, football program, or anyone other than himself. He was criticizing a politician and a public figure. That is a core area of protected speech in the United States.

Where does the university draw the line? What if Malone called Abrams a “liar” but did not make the sophomoric references to her looks?  Many academics routinely called Trump “fat,” “orange,” a “liar,” and other personal attacks but have no blowback from their universities. For example, Harvard Professor Lawrence Tribe (who President Biden just put on the Supreme Court commission) has routinely used juvenile and vulgar attacks against academics and political figures with opposing views, including myself. Tribe has called Trump a “terrorist” and supported a long litany of highly dubious criminal theories. He previously told CNN that “If you’re going to shoot him, you have to shoot to kill.” Tribe called Senator Mitch McConnell a “flagrant dickhead!” and loves to use Trump-like insults like “McTurtle” to refer to the Senator. He later ridiculed former Attorney General Bill Barr for his Catholic faith. His account has been described by critics as a “vector of misinformation and conspiracy theories on Twitter” where Tribe regularly engages in vulgar attacks on people holding opposing views. Tribe thrills his followers by referring to Trump as a “Dick” or “dickhead in chief.” Such slurs and invectives are all ignored when Tribe is offering consistent assurance that Trump can be prosecuted or impeached  on an ever-expanding list of offenses. Indeed, the only time Tribe generated a modicum of criticism from the left was when he referred to the selection of an African American like Kamala Harris for Vice President as a merely “cosmetic” choice.

If tweeting insulting and juvenile messages about politicians is grounds for termination, Tribe and hundreds of other professors would be standing in the unemployment lines. The alternative is to maintain a bright line between views expressed in the course of employment as opposed to views expressed by individuals outside of their respective schools.  I have no problem with the school privately reaching out to an academic to express concern or even condemnation over their conduct or statements. However, formal discipline or official condemnations raise serious free speech and sometimes academic freedom issues for faculty.

As previously discussed, my concern is the biased or conflicting handling of such cases.  I have defended faculty who have made similarly disturbing comments discussing the gassing of white peopledenouncing policecalling for Republicans to suffer,  strangling police officerscelebrating the death of conservativescalling for the killing of Trump supporters, supporting the murder of conservative protesters and other outrageous statements. These comments were not protested as creating an “unsafe environment” and were largely ignored by universities. However, professors and students are routinely investigated, suspended, and sanctioned for countervailing views. There were also controversies at the University of California and Boston University, where there have been criticism of such a double standard, even in the face of criminal conduct. There was also such an incident at the University of London involving Bahar Mustafa as well as one involving a University of Pennsylvania professor. Some intolerant statements against students are deemed free speech while others are deemed hate speech or the basis for university action. There is a lack of consistency or uniformity in these actions which turn on the specific groups left aggrieved by out-of-school comments.  There is also a tolerance of faculty and students tearing down fliers and stopping the speech of conservatives.  Indeed, even faculty who assaulted pro-life advocates was supported by faculty and lionized for her activism.

As we have previously discussed (with an Oregon professor and a Rutgers professor), there remains an uncertain line in what language is protected for teachers in their private lives. A conservative North Carolina professor  faced calls for termination over controversial tweets and was pushed to retire. Dr. Mike Adams, a professor of sociology and criminology, had long been a lightning rod of controversy. In 2014, we discussed his prevailing in a lawsuit that alleged discrimination due to his conservative views.  He was then targeted again after an inflammatory tweet calling North Carolina a “slave state.”  That led to his being pressured to resign with a settlement. He then committed suicide

The efforts to fire professors who voice dissenting views on various issues including an effort to oust a leading economist from the University of Chicago as well as a leading linguistics professor at Harvard and a literature professor at Penn. Sites like Lawyers, Guns, and Money feature writers like Colorado Law Professor Paul Campos who call for the firing of those with opposing views (including myself).  Such campaigns have targeted teachers and students who contest the evidence of systemic racism in the use of lethal force by police or offer other opposing views in current debates over the pandemic, reparations, electoral fraud, or other issues.


48 thoughts on “Tennessee Coach Sues After Being Fired For Tweet Insulting Stacey Abrams”

  1. Ironically, the coach’s comments appear to align well with the free speech of the American Founders, on four occasions, for those who doubt and choose to “interpret” that particular free speech as somehow inadvertent and unintended or, otherwise, temporary, as the 10 Commandments were not temporary.

    Naturalization Acts of 1790, 1795, 1798 and 1802 in Four Iterations

    United States Congress, “An act to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization,” March 26, 1790

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That any Alien being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof…

    If I force my way into China, will I be Chinese?

  2. Coaches are not faculty. serving at the pleasure of the head coach and the athletic director. As such, they have no academic freedom.

    Once again, Jonathan Turley is simply wrong.

  3. Implement a ban on talking politics at work and see what happens.


    “About a third of Basecamp’s employees have said they are resigning after the company, which makes productivity software, announced new policies banning workplace conversations about politics.

    Jason Fried, Basecamp’s chief executive, detailed the policies in a blog post on Monday, calling “societal and political discussions” on company messaging tools “a major distraction.” He wrote that the company would also ban committees, cut benefits such as a fitness allowance (with employees receiving the equivalent cash value) and stop “lingering and dwelling on past decisions.”

    Basecamp had 57 employees, including Mr. Fried, when the announcement was made, according to a staff list on its website. Since then, at least 20 of them have posted publicly that they intend to resign or have already resigned, according to a tally by The New York Times. Basecamp did not immediately respond to a request for comment.”

  4. The plaintiff will win this case in court a d go out on the front steps of the courthouse to sing this song
    Tennessee! Tennessee!
    Ain’t no place I’d rather bee!
    Students are you glad to see!
    I’m back in Tennessee!

  5. I wonder how many from that university engage in Twitter and how many have said inappropriate things on their own time. The Tweet was rather tame though sophomoric. Fat Albert is well known to most so isn’t as insulting as one might wish to believe. Using this Tweet as an example everyone from administration, staff and student should be fired for any Tweets that reach this level of inappropriateness. Would the school be able to function?

    1. I was born in East TN and it is a red state today but all schools are moving so far left it just blows my mind! Education used to be fair and balanced and the job was to just teach a student to think for themselves not to brainwash them into socialism/communism. Today wokism, counter culture and critical race theory RULE! If you are white you are a racist. Would you want your child to be a cop today? NO. My best friend is a retired cop and he says he would never encourage anyone to be a cop today. What we say on a golf course is nobodies business. Very sad times we live in and very worrying.

      1. We have a problem with the school system as well. Too many teachers think that the teaching profession is to provide themselves with a job and not children with an education.

  6. I don’t fear atomic bombsfrom China or Iran. I fear the insidious but progressive takeover of academia and media from the Left.

  7. I really hope Malone wins his case. Not because I agree or disagree with the message he posted but because I agree with 234currency…hit ’em in the pocketbook. As far as all those like Tribe I can only think that they have become intellectually lazy as has probably 90% of NYT, WAPO, etc writers. I kind of like that term, “intellectually lazy” and usually use it in a one line response when people say “she must be a deplorable”.
    I am constantly amazed with the prevailing lack of any curiosity in people today. They readily accept whatever they read or hear from opinion writers, talking heads et al. Believe none of what you hear and half of what you read.

  8. Should the coach be disciplined? Probably. Fired? No way. This is going to cost the university, “Big Time” (reminds of Dick Cheney). Professor Turley’s example of Lawrence Tribe’s comments are spot on. He spews hate almost every time he talks about “non-leftists”. I think Obummer talked of him for SCOTUS, that figures. He still has a chance, BO is pulling the strings through Susan Rice, don’t doubt that for one minute. Joe has to be led to the bathroom.

    1. I agree. But He shouldn’t even be disciplined. The 1st Am, which is in play here bc this is a public school, makes no distinction when there is speech regarding a “matter of public concern” as the cases say. So if he exercised protected free speech, then he can’t even be disciplined. A court should find this a matter of public concern based on other rulings. The court then balances what was said to what harm it caused to the function of the government entity, wh in this case is the university. I doubt that this had an impact on the efficiency of the university to do its job of educating students. However, if he used a school issued device or wrote this while he was working, then the university has the right to set policy on use of university property and that can defeat his 1st Am rights. But assuming he was on his own time using his own device, then he has a strong 1st Am case.

  9. Personally I love JT. I agree with him half the time and disagree the other half. I appreciate those of you who keep your comments succinct and aren’t hateful. I also love when we push back on one another respectfully. This blog has a huge number of really smart capable people. For the most part you are voices of reason. That is why I read it.

  10. By now the script should be obvious: You can say insulting and sophomoric things, but only about Left-approved targets.

    1. His joke was funny and it was funny because it was basically true though we are supposed to pretend it isn’t.

  11. It is a remarkably moronic and childish tweet and Malone deleted it
    Humour is no longer acceptable? He could have used a racist slur like the Democrats and media did to Senator Tim Scott.

    On the bright side he has the chops for a talking head on MSdnc.

    If allowed to go to trial, discovery ought to be good. Publicizing all the tweets from University of Tennessee Profs insulting President Trump.

    We have found though “equal protection” is only a theory when Judges apply it to deplorables.

  12. We all know of the problem, but will there ever be pushback and a course correction? I think not. The seeds of hate and dissent against anything other than far left ideology were planted long ago in academia and have been nurtured for decades. We are not harvesting the poison fruit. There is no turning back, I fear. We have now moved from the cancel culture well into political persecution with people like Tribe unfettered in his disgusting attacks on conservatives — which I will grant is protected free speech — and placed in positions of great influence. The watertight bulkheads of the good ship America have been breached.

    1. If the ACLU were like it used to be in the pre-Obama era, I think this problem might not be as serious bc they used to step-in and sue and pay for the suit to protect academic freedom and 1st Am rights in colleges. The ACLU is now left wing propaganda machine and only represents the left. I believe many of these professors too easily give up, perhaps assuming there is nothing they can do or that the cost of suing isn’t affordable. I have been sidelined by an Illness and can no longer practice. If I could, I would be traveling the country and representing these people bro Bono and trying to start an ACLU type organization that defends free speech, no matter the political message of the speech. Once universities saw they are chronic losers in these cases things might change. Did you see Turley’s piece on the law enforcement officer who was fired bc he donated to a web page seeking donations for Rittenhouse’s defense? That officer worked in VA. VA has a state law that applies specifically to police, firefighters, and EMT’s that a local government cannot fire the public servant for exercising political activities. So he had that statute and the 1st Am on his side and Turley, after I let him know about the state law, thought that the officer seemed to have the strongest of cases from what we know. People who believe in academic freedom and free speech need to stand together and actually do something. One thing would be is to get legislation passed in the states that prohibit discrimination based on political affiliation or views, even in the private sector. About 20 states have this type of legislation—some narrow others broad in scope. I am currently working on a proposed bill to go to my state representative and Senator. Whom I will then be able to meet with. It is more likely than not to die in a legislative committee, but there is precedent in many other states for something like this. This would protect faculty at private schools and employees in the private sector.

  13. “It is a remarkably moronic and childish tweet”

    I agree with Turley’s opinion.

    It’s also a false tweet, and I wish Turley had noted that too.

    There is no evidence that Senators Warnock and Ossoff were elected as a result of “cheating in an election.” Is there some election fraud? Yes. On both sides. Is election fraud widespread? No, and it especially isn’t widespread enough to have determined these statewide seats. This big lie about election fraud harms the country.

    1. Is there some election fraud? Yes. On both sides. Is election fraud widespread?

      So you know there is election fraud, but without any investigation you have quantified the fraud? You’re gooood!

        1. Correction: I should have said “prosecuted” rather than “arrested.”

    2. No. Citizens should be skeptical about elections and push for laws and processes that improve transparency and accountability. This includes proving you are entitled to vote at registration.

      The “big lie” is nowhere near as “big” and damaging as the daily lies coming out of Washington EVERY DAY.

      Fight this particular lie with 100% voter validation for every election.

  14. “The defendants include Malone”

    I too am here for the accuracy

  15. Just another sign of our time…free speech in education, social media, and the workplace is going, going, gone! Thank God my wife and I are retired and what we say in our homes with friends or outside with friends is nobody’s business. We can’t be fired!

    1. Give the left a little time. Once they see enough retirees making comments they consider improper they will come after your pensions. They will get total control through any means necessary.

      1. that’s every retired persons worst nightmare…running out of money or having it stolen by the government before we die…the young generation could care less about us…folks over 70…

  16. STAND UP and FIGHT the WOKE LEFT WING RADICAL SOCIALIST ELITES, when you fight back and sue them and win they will cry but they Hate to Pay and loose $$$$ – when you hit them in the pocket book these so called WOKE Socialist will think twice they hate loosing $$$$$$$$$$$$.

  17. As for the story at hand: I am getting so tired of reading about professors getting fired for saying only conservative or right wing things. We need a law protecting political views such as we have for race, sex, sexual orientation etc.

    Why is it illegal to fire someone for being gay (as it should be) and yet not illegal to fire someone for being conservative?

    1. “We need a law protecting political views . . .”

      For *public* colleges, that’s 1A. For *private* colleges, there cannot be any such law. Private colleges have the political right to be as irrational and suicidal as they want. Should there be private repercussions? Absolutely! Name their irrational ideas and condemn them. Don’t attend those colleges. Don’t donate money to them.

      1. Sam, I understand your point of view but what I am saying is that if a PRIVATE entity can not fire someone for being gay (which I agree with) then why can’t the same protection go to someone’s political views?

        1. Private colleges have the right to hire and fire anyone they choose, based on whatever criteria they select — whether those criteria are rational or irrational, moral or immoral. That the government currently bars them from exercising that right, means that those laws are unjust — no matter who they “protect.”

          The government has no business using its police powers to meddle in the employment decisions of private colleges. Given that there is such compulsion, you are right: There is a grotesque double standard.

          1. Sorry Sam but you are wrong. A private entity cannot fire someone for being gay, Black, female or trans, all proper legal protections. Now tell me again why political views shouldn’t also have protection.

            1. “. . . all proper legal protections.”


              What theory of rights grants to the government such sweeping powers?

              Based on the theory of individual rights, your argument is: Let’s use unjust laws to justify more unjust laws.

        2. My guess is that one of the reasons – the strongest reason – for the firing is that the offensive football linemen (whom he coached) consist of mostly Black players, and that this tweet would affect his ability to relate to these players because they might be (would be) upset with it.

      2. Let’s assume the 1A applies not only to governments but any institution or individual regulated by government or receiving government money. That would be hilarious.

  18. Act of intimidation.

    Knock off a few Republicans and the rest will fall in line.

    On a different matter.

    Anonymous (the Lefty) has come to fill up the blog with his posts.

    Out of 80 postings, 20 of them will be his.

    They are tedious, repetitive, and add little to the blog.

    I am going to skip over (and ignore) any posts by “Anonymous” going forward (apologies to the other “Anonymous”).

    The Lefty Anonymous is being greedy taking up everyone’s time.

    Suggest that we move on without him.

    1. MC, I have been saying for awhile now that people like Anonymous are trying to ruin this blog’s comment section. I would never fall into his trap and DEMAND that he be banned, but he should be shunned by the rest of us with the hope that he will go away.

      People, feel free to disagree, but please don’t turn this into a section like the comments at The Hill. We don’t need 100% agreement, but if you hate Professor Turley why not go to a different site?

      1. I ignore all Anonymous postings – use initials or some other identifying moniker if you want to post .

      2. There are multiple anonymous commenters.

        Personally, I don’t hate Turley. I mostly want him to correct his errors.

        Fine by me for those who dislike my comments to shun me.

      3. MC, I have been saying for awhile now that people like Anonymous are trying to ruin this blog’s comment section. I would never fall into his trap and DEMAND that he be banned, but he should be shunned by the rest of us with the hope that he will go away.

        That is part of the reason Althouse closed comments. Commenters that lacked the ability to engage on the topic, so desire to shut down debate they cant win.

    2. Why not focus on the words and comments themselves and not the ‘identity’ of the poster?

      I would not call it being ‘greedy’ so much as cluttering up the space with trash.

      I try to add something to the convo when I comment, but hey, one person’s trash is another’s treasure, eh?

      ps I chose to add a nom de guerre

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