ESPN’s Bruce Feldman Reportedly Suspended For Contributing To Mike Leach’s Book, Universal Outrage Follows
Yesterday, I wrote a little piece on our site pretending to take the ESPYs - not to mention ESPN itself - too seriously. What's reflected in there, besides goofing off, is that I personally can't work up the outrage some can for ESPN's every move. Yes, they have big-money television deals with the major sports they cover on the news side and therefore open themselves up to scrutiny - and because of those big-money deals, treating certain of their editorial decisions with a certain skepticism is healthy. And maybe i'm playing right into their money-filled hands with my lack of righteous anger, but I can't fake it. It's just not there, and it was fun to work up some faux outrage over the type of issue I could imagine somebody, somewhere, treating like the defining moral issue of our generation.
Some timing. Because yesterday, according to SPORTSbyBROOKS, ESPN made a decision that is, on the face of it, their worst on the journalistic integrity front since The Decision. It's the kind of action that left even the most laid-back in a frothing rage, the kind of action that screams, "Yes, you actually should examine our every move with an electron microscope!" That decision: Brooks reported that ESPN suspended college football writer Bruce Feldman indefinitely. Feldman, you see, worked on Mike Leach's new book, Swing Your Sword - you know, the one that says ESPN's coverage of his termination as Texas Tech coach was biased because they employ Craig James, whom Leach says was behind his ouster.
If Feldman received express instruction for ESPN not to work on the book, or even if he'd simply done it without asking permission, that would be one thing. But according to Brooks, here's what really happened:
Multiple management and editorial sources at ESPN have told me in recent months that Feldman would only participate in the Leach book project upon direct approval from ESPN management - which Feldman indeed received.
Emphasis ours, because seriously: what is going on? I wish I knew. Feldman's not talking (tellingly, he tweeted nothing yesterday; a day without a tweet from him is a rare occasion). ESPN employees aren't talking. ESPN itself, as of last night, wasn't talking.* All we're left with is word from Yahoo!'s Dan Wetzel that Feldman's ESPN colleagues are privately disgusted, and the extremely public disgust of everyone else. #freebruce became a Twitter hashtag sensation almost instantaneously. The reaction of SI college football writer Stewart Mandel typified the overall sentiment:
One of the finest writers in the profession was suspended today because of a company's own irresponsible journalism. #freebruce
That gets to the heart of it. No one can figure out what Feldman did wrong. To the best of everyone's knowledge, he participated in a project with full permission from his bosses. Presumably because of the sensitive nature of the project relative to his employer, he avoided promoting it. So...why this? Why now? We'll probably find out more over time, but for now, it's not only a mystery, it's a mystery where it's not even fathomable what one of the sides is thinking. For ESPN's sake, I hope there's more to this. For Feldman's sake, I hope not - and if not, that he's back in action soon.
*SportsGrid contacted ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz for a comment on the situation; this post will be updated when he responds.
Leach book photo via
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