NOTE: An edit has been made for clarification. Frei’s book was not specifically about the Battle of Okinawa as originally implied, and the passage discussing it has been amended.
The future is uncertain for former Denver Post sportswriter and part-time MSU Denver professor Terry Frei after a controversial tweet on Memorial Day weekend.
Frei, who has taught a sports writing class at MSU Denver since 2015, was relieved from his position at the Denver Post less than 24 hours after posting a tweet regarding Takuma Sato, who became the first Asian driver to win the Indianapolis 500. The tweet went viral with nearly 2,000 replies in less than four hours.
The tweet read, “Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day Weekend.”
“This is crazy,” said Victoria Jessar, an MSU Denver graduate. “Do you realize what this does to our brothers and sisters on campus who identify with this race and ethnicity?”
Frei issued an apology, attributing his statement to a lapse of judgment on an emotional weekend during which he saluted his father, Jerry, who was a decorated pilot with over 300 combat hours for the 26th Photo Squadron in World War II. Frei has extensively researched the conflict, and at one point publishing a novel discussing it.
“I made a stupid reference, during an emotional weekend, to one of the nations that we fought in World War II – and, in this case, the specific one my father fought against,” the apology reads.
Frei is slated to begin a new semester with MSU Denver in August. While his full-time employer decided they had enough grounds to reasonably terminate him, the school has not concluded either way. This is true despite issuing a statement that implied that his position was secure.
“While the university does not agree with the sentiments expressed by Frei on Twitter, and these comments are unrelated to his teaching duties at MSU Denver, we do not deny his right to freedom of speech. Nor do we believe that in and of itself should it determine whether or not he have a continued appointment as an affiliate faculty member at the university,” the statement read.
However, the Department of Journalism and Technical Communication confirmed to The Metropolitan that the discussion was ongoing.
“As of this point in time, Terry Frei is scheduled to teach for the fall. That could change,” said Department of Journalism and Technical Communications Chair Robert Amend, “It is a topic that will be discussed further.”
Amend noted that nothing is for certain, in part due the fact that the Shaun Schafer will be taking over Amend’s role as department chair in the fall.
Per the “Office of the President” page on MSU Denver’s website, “With 39.5 percent students of color, we are proud to have the most diverse student body of Colorado’s four-year universities.” In a school that prides itself on its progressive nature, the tolerance of perceived xenophobia would be an unacceptable change of message for some of those who pay tuition. However, some lay on the other side of the debate, saying that a tweet alone shouldn’t be grounds for termination.
“To me, it sounds like he’s just a very passionate American. Your emotions get the best of you. In that moment, you say whatever comes to your mind,” MSU Denver student Jahsont’e Evans said.
Regardless of debate, Terry Frei adds himself to a list of people fired from their job for something they’ve said in a tweet. Among them are comedian Gilbert Gottfried, ex-CNN Senior Anchor Octavia Nasr and Chad Shanks, ex-digital communications manager for the Houston Rockets.
We await the beginning of the fall semester in August to see if it will cost another job.