ESPN | Media Matters for America


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  • The Worst Moments From Breitbart News Hire Curt Schilling

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Breitbart News will reportedly hire former MLB pitcher and ESPN analyst Curt Schilling to host a political talk radio show. Schilling was fired from ESPN for sharing an anti-transgender post on Facebook; he was previously suspended by the network for comparing Muslims to Nazis. Schilling has a long history of anti-Muslim, racially charged, sexist, and anti-Semitic commentary.

  • NY Times: In Firing Of Schilling, ESPN Affirmed They Would No Longer Tolerate "The Language Of Bias"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Earlier this week, ESPN fired baseball commentator Curt Schilling following criticism he received after sharing an offensive image attacking transgender people on Facebook, affirming that media is increasingly refusing to accept discriminatory language from staff.

    In response to the backlash, Schilling wrote on his blog that those who have spoken out were "just dying to be offended" so they "can create some sort of faux cause to rally behind." Schilling has a history of posting crass messages online and was previously suspended after posting an image that compared Muslims to Nazis. Former ESPN ombudsmen previously described how Schilling would post “hurtful” messages which reflected on ESPN because "Curt Schilling is representing ESPN."

    Schilling’s termination this week reflects a larger wave among media companies, who are acting after media figures' comments create a backlash which reflect poorly upon companies that employ them. In March, Univision fired a TV host who used racially inflammatory comments on its network. CNN and MSNBC have banned Roger Stone from appearing on air after his sexist and racist tweets were revealed.

    The New York Times' Richard Sandomir positively highlights ESPN’s decision to fire Curt Schilling for violating the company's corporate policy and noted that this type of language is hurtful and unnecessary:

    When [Schilling] shared the message on social media earlier this week, he did not seem to grasp that he had implicitly endorsed it, especially after he added a comment about which public restrooms are appropriate for men and which are not. He is a public figure with a well-developed online profile as a political conservative and Second Amendment supporter who, by the way, was a terrific pitcher over a 20-season career. His propensity for living on the third rail of social media was at odds with ESPN’s internal policy that cautions its workers to be prudent.

    But by Wednesday, ESPN had had enough of him and fired him from his job as an analyst on “Monday Night Baseball.” He had been sent there from his previous, more prestigious position on Sunday night games, for retweeting a message last summer about extreme Muslims and Nazis, which earned him a monthlong suspension.

    In firing him, ESPN shed itself of a nuisance who did not, or could not, follow corporate policy and could not grasp that passing around an anti-transgender message digitally might affect people who are finding their way to new gender identities. Crass words and visuals hurt.

    We are in a moment when tolerance exists side-by-side with intolerance. Same-sex marriage is widely accepted, but North Carolina enacts its bathroom law. Advocacy groups like the You Can Play Project and Athlete Ally fight homophobia in sports, yet players still utter anti-gay slurs in the heat of the moment — and after the sweat dries, they say their spontaneous exhortations do not represent who they are.


    But, of course, the language of bias is as hurtful as it is unnecessary.

  • Trailblazing Female Sports Journalists Want An End To The TV Booth Mancave

    National Journalists Tell Media Matters: "It's Mind-Boggling" That Women Don't Call More Major Sports Events

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Jessica Mendoza

    It was a big week for Jessica Mendoza, who became the first woman to work a Major League Baseball broadcast for ESPN. And she did it twice.

    On August 24, she filled in for Aaron Boone on the network's Cardinals-Diamondbacks game. Sunday night, she replaced suspended analyst Curt Schilling on Sunday Night Baseball's Dodgers-Cubs match-up. (According to ESPN, Schilling is set to return to the booth this coming Sunday.)

    Unfortunately, Mendoza's groundbreaking broadcasts are still the rare exception. Women remain mostly on the outs when it comes to doing the actual play-by-play of sports.   

    "I just want to get to a point where it's like, 'oh she knows what she's talking about, he knows what he's talking about,' so it's not this huge deal," Mendoza told ThinkProgress last week. "On the other hand, I don't want it to be such a big deal because I want it to be the norm. How far are we right now from this being the norm?"

    Apparently, pretty far.

    While women are found on the sidelines and in the studio more than in the past, their place in the booth remains embarrassingly limited.

    "It's mind-boggling," said Christine Brennan, who is the national sports columnist for USA Today and among the top sports scribes in the country. "I don't understand why the networks are thinking of not putting women in the booth. It's 2015, I don't understand it. Studies show the NFL audience is 40 percent women now."

    Brennan broke her own barriers when she became the first Miami Herald female sports reporter in 1981, and later the first woman to cover the Washington Redskins in 1985 for The Washington Post. 

    "There has to be a first to have a second, or third. Why hasn't this happened before?" Brennan added. "I would hope that we are past the notion that if you did not play that specific game you cannot broadcast it. I always thought it's ridiculous in any sport." 

    Some strides have been made in sports, on and off the air, for women just this year. The Arizona Cardinals hired the first NFL female assistant coach, Jen Welter, last month, while the NBA's San Antonio Spurs summer league team was coached by one of its assistants, Becky Hammon, who led them to the league championship.

    And two weeks before Jessica Mendoza called the ESPN games, Beth Mowins announced an Oakland Raiders pre-season NFL game. As the Associated Press points out, Mowins was actually the second woman to do play-by-play for an NFL game, following a nearly thirty-year gap after Gayle Sierens announced a game for NBC in 1987.

    But female TV booth announcers and analysts in PGA Golf, NASCAR, NFL, NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball can be counted on one hand in most of those leagues, and never in their top championship events. 

    Tune in to Monday Night Football or the NBA Finals and the only women are usually the sideline reporters, often relegated to the quick few words during time-outs.

    This limits the pool of competent, skilled, and well-spoken play-by-play announcers to just half of the population. And at a time when women have made strides in many other areas of sports journalism, the two-person or three-person broadcast booth crews should be the next natural step toward equality.

    "The first thing they say is, 'how does she know about football?'" said Joan Ryan, who became the first full-time female sports columnist of a major daily newspaper when she joined the San Francisco Examiner in 1985. "But how does Bob Costas know about football? He didn't play it. How did Al Michaels know about football? Most political reporters haven't run for president or for any office and yet they cover politics. There's no question in my mind that it will change, but it will just take time."

    Women in sports coverage have faced opposition going back decades, to the lawsuit filed against Major League Baseball by Sports Illustrated writer Melissa Ludtke after she was banned from the locker room during the 1977 World Series. A federal court ruling a year later forced the ban to be lifted.

    "They have the women where they want them," Ludtke told Media Matters on Monday when asked about the TV booth barriers. "They have them on the sidelines, where they can dress them and talk to them in their ear."

    She later added, "Until we get a place where hearing a woman's voice talking about what is predominantly male sports and believe that that voice holds authority it's going to be very difficult for them to find their way there."

    The locker room case was met with the sexist claim that women just wanted to be in there to see and meet men. Others simply claimed the women who wanted key roles in TV sports journalism did not know enough about sports to cover them, even though they were already reporting on the biggest events for their news and sports outlets across the country.

    The court order did a great deal to destroy those myths and prove that they were doing their jobs, the same as men. Women now cover teams in nearly every big city.

    New York Yankees radio analyst Suzyn Waldman and New Jersey Devils hockey announcer Sherry Ross hold top spots in the New York market, for example, but both are on radio, not television. For some reason, the most prestigious TV sports broadcasting remains male-dominated. 

    Women have earned acclaim and status in most other areas of broadcasting and news. Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, and Diane Sawyer have held the coveted network news anchor chairs, and women currently hold co-anchor spots on all three major network morning news programs, although they are absent as hosts from the networks' influential Sunday talk shows.

    Women have reached the top editing posts at The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Associated Press, among other major news outlets over the years. The last two presidents of the White House Correspondents Association were women, as were about half of the Pulitzer Prize winners announced this year.

    At ESPN, meanwhile, women have been anchoring the channel's flagship Sportscenter program at various times for years. It is really a non-issue in almost all other areas of sports broadcasting. 

    But game-time announcing is still something of a mancave.

    Veteran female sports reporters say if you really want to serve the listening and viewing fan, be it a man or a woman, finding the best person for the job is still the best way.

    And then, when Jessica Mendoza calls a Major League Baseball game on the nation's biggest sports network, it will not be a story at all.

    "Wouldn't it be great if she became the Lou Gehrig of replacements," said Brennan, referring to the great New York Yankee who went on to set a record for consecutive Major League games played after he replaced the injured Wally Pipp. "She should be a full-time voice on ESPN broadcasts. I am hoping that we have reached a turning point."

  • Former ESPN Ombudsmen Weigh In On ESPN Analyst Curt Schilling's "Hurtful" Comments

    The Network's Past Internal Watchdogs Urge Return Of Ombudsman Post In Wake Of Analyst's Muslim/Nazi Comparison

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Veteran ESPN ombudsmen are weighing in on ESPN baseball analyst Curt Schilling's "hurtful" comments comparing Muslims to Nazis, including one who labeled him a "right-wing dummy." They're also urging the sprawling sports media empire to bring back the ombudsman position that has not been filled since late 2014.

    "I think an internal critic is really, really healthy," said George Solomon, who was named the first ESPN ombudsman in 2005 and served for 21 months. "Having someone in that role is a good thing and I would hope they would reinstitute it. I think they should have kept the position, it's good to have an internal critic."

    Schilling kicked off a controversy this week after a Twitter post in which he compared Muslims to Nazis, a move that caused ESPN to pull him from its Little League World Series coverage and this week's edition of Sunday Night Baseball. After ESPN announced disciplinary measures, Schilling tweeted, "I understand and accept my suspension. 100% my fault. Bad choices have bad consequences and this was a bad decision in every way on my part."

    But the offending tweet wasn't a momentary lapse in judgment. Schilling has a history of posting and sharing incendiary material on social media, including suggesting Hillary Clinton is a drunk murderer, defending the confederate flag, and criticizing civil rights leaders.

    Josh Krulewitz, ESPN vice president of communications, declined to say if more discipline would occur.

    The incident took place at a time when ESPN has been without an ombudsman for more than eight months, having failed to replace Robert Lipsyte when his term ended in December 2014.

    Lipsyte was one of three former ESPN ombudsmen who spoke to Media Matters Wednesday about Schilling, calling him a "right-wing dummy" and saying his views hurt his image on the network.

    "My feeling is that if Curt Schilling can make the kind of comments that he does outside the white lines then I don't trust anything he has to say about anything," Lipsyte said. "He's obviously a right-wing dummy."

    He later added, "Everybody in journalism these days is under pressure to be on social media, which also reflects on your employer. There are no personal tweets. You are reflecting whoever you represent and Curt Schilling is representing ESPN."

    George Solomon, the first ESPN ombudsman hired in 2005 for 21 months, said the Muslim/Nazi comparison "can be quite hurtful to a number of people."

    He added, "ESPN gives its employees, particularly its commentators, a lot of leeway and it seems sometimes that causes a problem and in Schilling's case it seems to be a problem that ESPN will have to deal with, looking at his whole body of work ... ESPN will have to decide, 'Do we want Mr. Schilling to represent us with these comments?' Coming from an era where Twitter was not a factor and social media was not part of my life that can be difficult because people who represent ESPN or other networks will put things on Twitter and other social media outlets that they would not say that can be a problem."

    Asked what he would do if he was still the ombudsman, Solomon said, "I would probably comment on the remarks. To compare the Muslims with the Nazis is a stretch."

    The network had employed an ombudsman regularly since 2005, with five people holding the job through the years. But the position has been empty since Lipsyte left.

    Krulewitz said the network has not ruled out bringing the position back, but stopped short of offering any firm plans: "We're in the process of determining our plans for our next ombudsman. We're exploring what our options are ... we're in the midst of the process now."

    Asked if the latest Schilling situation would change the plans to expedite the ombudsman, he said, "no."

    "The ombudsman is an independent, someone we hire independently to review and discuss her or his viewpoint of ESPN," Krulewitz said. "We're going to go through the process and we obviously want to do the process the right way."

    But the former ombudsmen who spoke to Media Matters said the position is needed, perhaps now more than ever given the recent Schilling situation.

    "I can't understand what's taking them so long, with all the things," said Lipsyte. "When I left ESPN, my exit interview, the takeaway was 'why should we pay for criticism when we get so much for free.' That doesn't sound to me like an organization that really wants independent oversight. Everybody needs an ombudsman."

    Solomon agreed: "I've said that from the start. Taking myself out of the mix, the ombudsmen they've had have been really valuable and informative and really good."

    He also added, "I think ESPN was sensitive to what the ombudsmen, including myself, had to say. They listened, they paid attention, they were very responsive when I did the reporting for my column."

    Le Anne Schreiber, another ESPN ombudsman who served from 2007-2009, urged the position's return, saying they helped many of the network's journalists who conduct in-depth reporting.

    "Some of the employees are very, very serious journalists," she said. "The ombudsmen have always had their backs. Many of them said to me how much moral support they felt in their place in the institution by the presence of the ombudsman, if only for that reason. Just being a watchdog and just being a voice raised the traditional journalist values. It gave a lot of aid comfort and support to the serious journalists who are there and who deserved it."

    She also said the network needs specific policies about what is allowed and what the punishment will be for these type of actions.

    "ESPN needs to have a very clarified policy about what is acceptable and what is not on their airwaves and," Schreiber said. "ESPN should stop dealing with these ad hoc, making them up in response to public heat of the moment; make a very clear policy. It really is about a consistency of policy."

  • ESPN Analyst Curt Schilling's Worst Facebook Posts

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    ESPN is apologizing for a tweet by ESPN baseball analyst and former pitcher Curt Schilling comparing Muslims to Nazis, calling it "completely unacceptable." A Media Matters scan of Schilling's Facebook page found ESPN has a bigger problem than one tweet: Schilling has repeatedly demonized Muslims as killers, shared a picture calling Hillary Clinton a drunk murderer, and suggested civil rights leaders like Rep. John Lewis aren't patriotic.

    In a since-deleted tweet, Schilling posted the following image comparing Muslims to Nazis.

    ESPN public relations responded to the Schilling tweet by writing: "Curt's tweet was completely unacceptable, and in no way represents our company's perspective. We made that point very strongly to Curt and have removed him from his current Little League assignment pending further consideration." 

    Schilling's tweet is hardly an aberration. He regularly posts incendiary material on his Facebook page, which he has linked to from his verified Twitter account. Schilling also posted a similar image on his Facebook page in October 2014 to the Hitler tweet he deleted. 

    Here are some lowlights:

    *This post has been updated with additional content from Schilling's Facebook page. 

  • The Australian Open, ESPN, And Selective Climate Change Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Tennis Star In Heat Via ESPN

    ESPN announcers recently used a cold spell to mock global warming in their live commentary, mainstreaming the conservative myth that cold weather disproves global warming. But during coverage of the Australian Open, which saw dangerous, record-breaking heat, commentators remained silent on the issue -- a trend more akin to Fox News.

    During an Arctic chill on January 7, ESPN commentators Jimmy Dykes and Brad Nessler interjected their sports coverage with climate denial. Dykes mentioned that he had watched a national television debate over "whether or not global warming was still taking place," saying he "listened to about 30 seconds of it, but the guy saying no it has not, I think he won the debate." Nessler laughed in agreement, adding, "It's about 50 below wind chill [in Minnesota] so there's no global warming in that part of the country." In response to criticism, Dykes tweeted, "God is in control of our climate. He does not make mistakes. Plus it's 3 degrees where I stand right now : )"

    However, as Melbourne experiences record-breaking heat during the Australian Open -- including the worst heat wave Melbourne has suffered since 1908 -- ESPN commentators have been mum on climate change one way or the other. Instead, they have opted to make light of the dangerous temperatures; after one tennis player hallucinated that he saw Snoopy before fainting, a commentator joked, "I wonder if Snoopy had a racket."

  • How ESPN Is Mainstreaming Climate Change Denialism

    Blog ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

    ESPN hostsESPN announcers Brad Nessler and Jimmy Dykes mainstreamed the right-wing myth that cold weather in January disproves man-made climate change.

    During the first half of a January 7 game, Dykes discussed a pattern of cold weather blanketing much of the United States and said he had observed a national television debate earlier over "whether or not global warming was still taking place." While laughing Dykes said, "I listened to about 30 seconds of it, but the guy saying no it has not, I think he won the debate." Nessler laughed in response. 

    Regardless of whether Dykes and Nessler agree with the 97 percent of climate scientists who say that climate change is real and presents an immediate threat, or with climate deniers like Donald Trump, it's troubling that they would use their national platform to peddle right-wing myths. 

    On Sunday, CBS's flagship news magazine, 60 Minutes, aired a controversial and sloppy report that completely ignored the pressing threat of climate change while downplaying the need to invest in clean energy. CBS defended its reporting, including the decision not to mention climate change, by citing what it referred to as the show's "rich history" of reporting on the topic. 

    ESPN's broadcast of climate denialism only underscores the need for legitimate media organizations to treat the issue of global warming seriously and to make sure that it's part of the conversation. 

    As a network devoted to sports, ESPN has a unique responsibility to treat climate change seriously. An August 2013 Scientific American article made clear that climate change can have a direct impact on athletes: 

    "The climate's getting warmer so players are exposed to higher temperatures," said Andrew Grundstein, a climatologist at the University of Georgia and a co-author of a 2012 study of heat related deaths in high schools nationwide. Across the country, deaths of high school football players due to heat nearly tripled from 1994 to 2009 compared to the previous 15 years, according to Grundstein's study. Heat illnesses in football players have multiple causes, experts say, but as the climate heats up, practices in Georgia - and around the country - are getting watered down just to be safe.

    UPDATE (1/8/14): In response to criticism, Jimmy Dykes doubled down, tweeting, "God is in control of our climate. He does not make mistakes. Plus it's 3 degrees where I stand right now : )"

    Dykes tweet January 8

  • CNBC Reporter's Use of "Chink in the Armor" Condemned By Asian American Journalists

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    A CNBC reporter is under fire for using the phrase "chink in the armor" during a Tuesday discussion of Wendi Deng's pending divorce from News Corp and 21st Century Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch.

    The comments by CNBC's Robert Frank drew a critical response from the Asian American Journalists Association, which condemned the statements as "offensive" and "inappropriate."

    Discussing whether Deng's new lawyer might be able to gain her a share of the Murdoch family trusts during the divorce case, Frank stated on CNBC's Power Lunch: "I wonder, you know, Peter, what do you think the chink in the armor here might be? That's what [Deng's lawyer] is so good at, is finding a chink in the pre-nups and all these trusts. What do you think they may be looking for to get more out of this divorce?"

    Deng is a Chinese-born American citizen. She and Rubert Murdoch married in 1999 and have two children together. In June, Rupert Murdoch filed for divorce.

    Contacted by Media Matters, Bobby Caina Calvan, media watch chair for the Asian American Journalists Association, said after reviewing the video that Frank used "an unfortunate phrasing and people should know better in this day and age that a phrase like that, that I'm not going to repeat, is offensive to many of us."

    Acknowledging that the statement may have been "spoken innocently" and could have been part of an "off-the-cuff question," Calvan nonetheless added that "we would like CNBC and Mr. Frank to realize that the words uttered on air today about an Asian-American in the news were inappropriate in any context." He further stated that the "phrase shouldn't have been used, it is a no-brainer."

    Reached for comment, a CNBC spokesman said any offensive connotation was "totally unintentional," declining to offer any additional explanation.

    Calvan said AAJA has reached out to CNBC and was willing to help the network identify "words that many of us feel are offensive."

  • ESPN Wants To Pay-To-Play

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    The dream of wireless providers like Verizon and AT&T -- or any company, really -- is to be able to charge twice for providing the same service. In working towards that goal they're getting a big assist from ESPN and tearing down net neutrality in the process.

    The Wall Street Journal reported last week that ESPN is in talks with "at least one" major U.S. wireless internet provider to "subsidize wireless connectivity on behalf of its users." This means that they're willing to pay a wireless carrier like AT&T a significant chunk of change to enable ESPN viewers to stream unlimited sports programming to their mobile devices without having to worry about exceeding the carrier's monthly data caps. So wireless subscribers would pay AT&T for access to the internet, and ESPN would pay AT&T for access to the customer. One service, two charges.

    And if AT&T does end up pairing with ESPN on this scheme, that wouldn't be surprising given that AT&T has been trying to work out ways to double-charge for their services for quite some time. Last February the Journal reported that the wireless carrier was scheming out a way to charge developers of data-intensive mobile apps for the traffic AT&T subscribers incurred while using their products, and on May 15 AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told investors that he expects those plans to be in effect soon. They also tried to double-charge customers for the privilege of using Apple's FaceTime videochat app -- a potential violation of the almost-impossible-to-violate Open Internet rules. They eventually made FaceTime available to all subscribers except those who still have unlimited data plans grandfathered in from before AT&T switched over to tiered plans with data caps.

    That should give you an idea how much wireless carriers love data caps and how central they are to their future business models. It's a lucrative proposition for them: set up the cap, charge customers who go over it, and charge companies who can afford to pay to get around it. And that's where the net neutrality concern comes in: wireless carriers who allow companies to circumvent their data limits are, in effect, prioritizing the content of those companies and disincentivizing subscribers from seeking out content from companies who haven't paid for the exemption. As Public Knowledge put it: "Imposing data caps on consumers and then allowing wealthy content holders to buy their way around them is a recipe for stagnation online."