Right-wing media equated sensitivity training to "re-education camp" after an NFL player was disciplined for homophobic tweets.
On May 10, University of Missouri football player Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, becoming the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL. ESPN aired footage of Sam sharing a celebratory kiss with his boyfriend. Following the kiss, Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones reacted by tweeting "omg" and "horrible." The Dolphins fined Jones and barred him from team activities until he undergoes sensitivity training.
The conservative media took the opportunity to liken the sensitivity training requirement to being forced into a re-education camp. Fox personalities and guests alike proclaimed that Jones was being sent to a re-education camp, a claim The Washington Times echoed, calling the sensitivity training "modern-day equivalent of a re-education camp." Predictably, Rush Limbaugh joined conservatives decrying Jones "going to re-education camp" as "just creepy."
Real re-education camps are known for their vast human rights violations and still exist in countries like North Korea and China. A report on North Korea's camps in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the inhumane conditions at the camps:
North Koreans can end up in re-education camps for such crimes as listening to foreign radio broadcasts, secretly practicing a religion, or crossing the border to China in search of food. Inmates are subjected to forced labor and are required to memorize political tracts. They receive little food, no medical care and sometimes serve multiyear terms wearing the clothes in which they arrived at camp. I interviewed a woman who had been wearing high heels when she was arrested and had to bind her feet in rags when those wore out. Many prisoners die of abuse or malnutrition.
The New York Times described the conditions in China's "Re-education Through Labor" camps:
Conditions in re-education camps are dire: Physical abuse by guards and the criminal elements they entrust to enforce "order" is common, as are long hours of arduous work with no rest day; institutionalized corruption; deficient health care; and what the Justice Ministry refers to as "abnormal deaths."
Sensitivity training is nothing new in the NFL. In August 2013, Philadelphia Eagles receiver Riley Cooper attended sensitivity training after he used a racial slur. A typical training session lasts between two and four hours.
It should be obvious that comparing sensitivity training for a player's bigoted, anti-gay comments to brutal re-education camps in oppressive regimes are ridiculous, but right-wing media continue to embrace hyperbole in their opposition to gay rights.