Are You Ready for Some … ?

7 Oct

Welcome back to The Sports Ace, where an ALCS without a team from the AL East is a surprising yet exciting proposition.

First off, I wanted to take this opportunity to remember Steve Jobs.  Without his brilliance, we might not be writing blogs and having these kinds of conversations.  To one of the great businessmen and innovators of our time, rest in peace.

Yesterday ESPN ended a 20-year relationship with Hank Williams Jr. over a comment he made (I won’t mention it here because I don’t care to repeat it).  When I first heard the news, I thought this was a severe knee-jerk reaction to a messy situation.  But then I thought about it: is such a statement enough of a reason to sever ties with one of the most integral parts of your Monday Night Football franchise on his first offense, and to throw away one of the most recognized catchphrases in sports (Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?) just like that?

In a word, yes.  For ESPN, this goes way beyond just being about a man’s inappropriate comment or deciding to support or abandon a business partner with whom both parties have a long history of success.  The statement was dripping with political 0pinion – Williams Jr. wasn’t just making a comparison, he was directly and indirectly degrading and demeaning the politics to which he does not subscribe and those who practice them. 

While such statements are common on reality TV and Fox News Channel these days, organizations that practice true, ethics-based journalism still reject them without fail.  The reason is simple: you can’t objectively report news and provide analysis/commentary if you project or are known for a bias toward one side of a story or another.  That’s Journalism 101.  If ESPN backed Williams Jr. on this, or even censured him publicly but retained him, they could be perceived as supporting his politics and taking a position on any number of things they cover and decisions they make on a daily basis.  I’m convinced they got rid of Williams Jr. just as much because they value their objectivity as they are sickened by what he said and don’t want to be associated with it. 

Don’t forget either: ESPN has been flogged about objectivity ever since the LeBron James “The Decision” fiasco – or at least questioned about its status as a news organization.  It’s clear this decision sends a strong message: that ESPN still sees itself as a journalistic entity, and will do what it takes to remain one.

It may be a harsh punishment, and a quick decision, but it’s one that a network with any shred of journalistic integrity and objectivity has to make.  ESPN did what it had to do. 

That’s all for now.  I’m out like the Yankees.

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