The spat on the hat UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The spat on the hat UPDATE

Posted By on Tue, Aug 17, 2010 at 5:05 PM

Here's an interview with Renee Gork, the radio talk show host in Fayetteville sacked for wearing a Florida Gators cap to a Hog scrimmage over the weekend.

The key new ingredient is her statement that she was fired by the station after a call from the UA to the station saying she was no longer welcome at Hog practices. There'd been some question whether Hog coach Bobby Petrino and quarterback Ryan Mallett were merely joshing, or truly perturbed, in remarks about Gork's Gator cap. She's a Florida grad and has said she grabbed the cap without thinking before heading out Saturday to cover the scrimmage.

A Hog homer radio station is well within its rights (in that the 1st Amendment doesn't apply to private employers) to discipline or even fire an employee for such as this. But when a public institution starts interfering with someone's employment over a free expression issue, then it's a horse's ass of a different color.

Instant analysis: The UA should accept Gork's apology and allow her back at practice (should she be able to get her job back).

Where, really, does a public institution get off saying who may and who may not cover its football team? In the limited confines of a press box, a finite number may be accommodated, clearly. But in a broader setting? Is admission to practice an implicit seal of homerism for those allowed to attend?

CORRECTION: An old movie keeps popping into my head when I write about this reporter. Sorry for the misspellings earlier.

UPDATE: The UA Athletic Department distances itself from Gork's firing, but confirms it might have communicated at least a bit of temporary you're-not-wanted-around-here advice. Its release:

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The following is a statement released by Razorback Athletics on Tuesday afternoon.

“The University of Arkansas has no connection to The Hog Sports Radio and has no direct or indirect control over the station’s management or personnel decisions. University of Arkansas athletic department personnel did communicate to the reporter that her attendance at Monday’s practice was not recommended to allow additional time to pass. The University wishes to be very clear that it did not request any employment action with regard to the reporter.”

Again, where does a public institution get off "recommending" a temporary cessation of a person's ability to do her job on account of displeasure at her freedom of expression (wearing a bleeping ball cap from her alma mater). Man up, Hogs. I have asked who communicated the suggestion. UPDATE: Kevin Trainor says "a media relations staff member." I've asked who and whether the person acted independently or on instructions.

PS — No, she shouldn't have worn the hat. Or popped off on public social media (information developed after the fact). Two wrongs and so on.

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