So now, President Donald Trump has demanded an apology from ESPN.
I won't re-hash the details. ESPN sports anchor Jemele Hill recently posted Tweets in which, among other things, she called the president a White Supremacist and said he was unfit to serve.
When she did, HIll didn't specify that she was speaking strictly as a citizen and not as an ESPN representative. That was a mistake. I think she realizes that.
If ESPN apologizes, it will be a bigger mistake.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said what Hill did was a fireable offense. The message: How dare Hill say something vile and incendiary about the president.
Whether you agree with all, some or none of what Hill posted, the president's and his press secretary's response should alarm all of us.
Trump and Sanders, of course, would have been perfectly within their rights to slam Hill's posts as utter nonsense and leave it at that. That's not how they played it.
Instead, they chose to fire a shot across the bow at the First Amendment.
If anyone deserves to be canned because of this it is Sanders, not Hill. In fact, the Democratic Coalition, an anti-Trump Super PAC, has repordedly filed an ethics complaint against Sanders.
People saying mean things about any POTUS comes with the territory. It's not the prettiest part of the free speech that helps keep the vibrancy of the Republic alive, but it is part of free speech.
During the confirmation process of then-senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, a left-wing website blared in a headline "Stop. This. Racist."
I don't know if Sessions read that, but if he did, he didn't react by calling for any heads to roll. He reacted by passionately denying during his confirmation hearing that he's a racist.
If ESPN caves to the president's demand for an apology, that's bad news for all of us. We all know, or we all should, that if freedom of the press disappears, the rest of our freedoms will go along with it.
An informal memo was reportedly recently circulated among ESPN employees that basically said, "Guys, we do sports, not politics."
I think that's a good call. ESPN stands for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. Hill and her colleagues are on notice. If they would like to tweet about politics on the job, they can resign from ESPN and try for a spot with an organization that does politics.
In the meantime, for the good of all of us, ESPN needs to stand its ground.
We live in a time when a then-candidate who roughed up a reporter is a sitting congressman (yeah, I know. He apologized. Still, I find the whole thing disturbing), and a West Virginia reporter was arrested after (gasp!) yelling questions at Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price that Price wouldn't answer.
The charge, which never should have been filed in the first place, was dropped and it was heartening to hear from the reporter, Dan Heyman, about the support he received during his ordeal.
Yes, a lot of people despise the media but, when push comes to shove, I truly believe most people want a free press.
They want it at least partly because they know what the consequences will be if we don't have it.
They get it. Speaking just for me, I don't think the president or his press secretary does.