The ESPN Outlaw: Why Don’t The Rules Apply To Craig James?

  • Timothy Burke

I go on journeys out of my body and look at my red hands and my mean face and I wonder about that man who’s gone so wrong. I’ve been becoming a problem to myself.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Jesse Craig James was born the second of January 1961 in Jacksonville, Texas and given the name of The American West’s most notorious bandit.

The same Jesse Craig James rode in a gang of the NCAA’s most egregious lawbreakers, a gang called the Pony Express, a gang that after his departure would suffer the same fate Jesse W. James did in St. Joseph, Missouri, albeit one given the benefit of due process denied JWJ by that coward Bob Ford.

Jesse Craig James maintains to this day his innocence in the affairs that led to SMU’s death penalty. Indeed, by his innocence he has created his own Wild West, a land where there are no laws and in which he is the only resident. In doing so he has made himself one of the least-trusted men in sports media.

ESPN today censured former golf pro and now analyst Paul Azinger for making a critical comment about President Obama on his Twitter account. Football analyst Lou Holtz landed in hot water for similar statements.

This is because ESPN’s guidelines require “strict approval and a strong presumption that they will not be approved” for any political advocacy. The same applies to the advertising guidelines. Anything that’s approved must appear on the ESPN list of commentator endorsements.

SportsGrid wrote in June about James’ new political advocacy group, though at the time it wasn’t clear exactly what he was advocating. His recent series of blog posts, however, have exposed James as a promoter of conservative causes. There’s even a “Conservatism” category which features a post on enjoying Independence Day — as if liberals were somehow incapable of doing the same. Attacks on President Obama are abound, as are links to the right-wing Heritage Foundation.

If James went through the official advocacy review process and somehow managed to be approved, his name should appear alongside — at the very least — his foundation name on the list of ESPN commentator endorsements. It doesn’t.

A James post on the “Pledge of Allegiance incident” at the U.S. Open features a disclaimer but is an open violation of ESPN’s social media policy.

The issues with James and his involvement in Mike Leach’s firing at Texas Tech are well-covered. Those remain ambiguous and depend on your evaluation of James’ and Leach’s individual credibilities. Craig James’ open flouting of ESPN’s advertising, endorsement and social media policies, meanwhile, are concrete. Their perpetuation suggests the Worldwide Leader is engaged with him in salutary neglect, permitting him to engage in frontier banditry while at the same time locking up its local offenders in Newgate prison.

Until ESPN applies the policies it lauds as being integral to their journalistic legitimacy fairly and equally to all its employees — including Craig James — those policies will remain as ineffective at regulating behavior as Allan Pinkerton’s detectives were at catching the outlaw Jesse W. James.

And all the while Jesse Craig James’ reputation shrinks from visibility, his ambition having become a problem to himself.

Follow Timothy on Twitter at @bubbaprog.