Freelance sports muckraker Brooks Melchior of Sports By Brooks continued his week of making ESPN look bad by dropping the news that ace college football writer Bruce Feldman had been “suspended indefinitely” by the Worldwide Leader for his role in assisting former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach write his new book, Swing Your Sword. According to the SBB report, Feldman cannot participate in any ESPN platform or use his Twitter account.
Initially, Feldman could only participate in helping Leach with the approval of higher ups at ESPN. He received their blessing and helped Leach compile his thoughts for the memoir. As the book was released there wasn’t any mention of Feldman’s involvement or any direct participation in pumping the book.
Then came today’s outrageous news.
The fact that Feldman received approval and then was suspended only scratches the surface of what riles me up. Suspending writers for criticizing the network and its affiliates/outlets sets a very dangerous precedent for ESPN. It basically shackles all ESPN employees to toe the company line or suffer the consequences, regardless of whether that impedes them actually doing their job.
We’ve already learned that the new Longhorn Network has a clause that states any on-air personality can be fired for making the University of Texas look bad. I could almost see that as Texas protecting its brand. (That’s all it is, a 24-hour promotional channel). But ESPN as a reporting entity is supposed to be above all that, in theory.
In an era where the line between sports entertainment and reporting are become more blurred, do the rules and ethics of journalism apply when the journalists are the one making the news? And when do you get to pick and choose based on what you want the message to be?
I think it’s safe to say that journalistic credibility has officially left Bristol, Conn. I’d think this would prompt outlets like Yahoo! Sports and CBS to seriously consider offering amnesty and large paychecks to any writer who wants to bail from ESPN now. To those with character and honor, it’s not worth the money to know that you’re not free to do your job the way it’s supposed to be done.