Film and TV producer-director Peter Berg has issued an apology for a transphobic meme he shared on Instagram in response to the choice of Caitlyn Jenner to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at last night’s ESPYs.
Berg, who has the acclaimed TV series Friday Night Lights among his credits, shared a meme posted on Facebook by a “news personality” using the name Main Stream Media Sponsor Boycotts, Entertainment Weekly reports. It had a photo of Army veteran and double amputee Gregory D. Gadson alongside one of Jenner, with the caption “One man traded 2 legs for the freedom of the other to trade 2 balls for 2 boobs. Guess which man made the cover of Vanity Fair, was praised for his courage by President Obama and is to be honored with the ‘Arthur Ashe Courage Award’ by ESPN?” Berg, who cast Gadson in his 2012 film Battleship, shared the meme on Instagram Wednesday with the comment “Yup.”
Thursday evening, however, Berg posted this statement: “I have the utmost respect for Caitlyn Jenner and I am a strong supporter of equality and the rights of trans people everywhere. I also believe that we don’t give enough attention to our courageous returning war veterans, many of whom have sacrificed their bodies and mental health for our country and our principals — principals that include the freedom to live the life you want to live without persecution or abuse.” (Editor’s note: The correct spelling is “principles.”) It was attached to a photo with statistics on veterans’ suicides.
Some others have criticized the selection of Jenner for the award. Last month NBC sportscaster Bob Costas said ESPN, which bestows the award, made “a crass exploitation play” in choosing Jenner and that there were others more deserving. “That’s not to say it doesn’t take some measure of personal courage to do what Caitlyn Jenner has done,” he added.
Also, a driver involved in the fatal four-car accident in which Jenner was also involved spoke out against the award. “I find it difficult to understand how the culture we live in can honor a person who is responsible for taking a life and injuring several others with both an award and a reality show,” talent manager Jessica Steindorff told Entertainment Tonight Wednesday. “For an individual who is such a positive role model in many aspects of her life, Caitlyn has failed to do the right thing and take responsibility for her actions.”
Kimberly Howe of Calabasas, Calif., was killed in the crash, which occurred in February in Malibu. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is still investigating the accident, and Jenner has been cooperative and has not been charged with any crime, ET notes. However, Howe’s stepchildren have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Jenner, and Steindorff has filed a personal injury suit against her.