The Mike Leach Saga Cannot Be Good News For Craig James’ Political Aspirations
ESPN's Craig James has political ambitions. That much was obvious when he considered a run for U.S. Senate last year. And in case that didn't get the point across, there's his group Texans for a Better America, which doesn't say anything explicit about a run for office, but says it's "about reconnecting people with the values, ideas, and founding principles that have not only made Texas the envy of our nation, but would transform our country." The core values of the group are the Constitution, free markets, and American exceptionalism - pretty much pulled straight from the Tea Party playbook. Make no mistake: James is thinking politically.
There is, however, one problem with all of this, and it's a problem that got a lot worse yesterday. As you might have heard, former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, fired after alleged mistreatment of James' son (and Tech receiver) Adam, has a new book out. It doesn't make the James family look good - indeed, it presents documented evidence that Craig James employed a PR firm - not to mention his own influence as an ESPN analyst - in order to manipulate media coverage of the Leach-Adam James situation and undermine the coach.
And that was all just when it looked bad. But yesterday, reports emerged that ESPN suspended college football writer Bruce Feldman, who just happened to collaborate with Leach on the coach's book. ESPN, for its part, denied this report yesterday with the following statement:
There was never any suspension or any other form of disciplinary action. We took the time to review his upcoming work assignments in light of the book to which he contributed and will manage any conflicts or other issues as needed. Bruce has resumed his assignments.
Not that this fully ended the story, of course. It certainly didn't mean everyone took ESPN's side of the story as undisputed fact. Some simply interpreted it as the outpouring of support on Feldman's behalf resulting in success. Others wondered why ESPN at first declined comment, then waited until the middle of the next day to release an official statement if the matter was as cut and dry as they said. Others just didn't buy a word of it, and still others thought ESPN was...well, see here.
And whatever the details of Feldman's situation - and whatever they are, they certainly don't make James appear to have less influence - it doesn't change what Leach wrote about James. Because of Leach's book, we have reason to believe Craig James used his sway to advance a personal cause with his own employer (Leach's book says at one point, "ESPN's Joe Schad was just spewing this stuff that Craig James and Spaeth Communications were feeding him"). He allegedly did these things on behalf of his son, who, according to Leach, had a subpar work ethic. Does that sound like someone who will "continually emphasize freedom, hard work and personal responsibility," as Texans for a Better America purports to do?
James' involvement in this mess, to our eyes, contradicts the paramount message of his
political group. That's not something people will look kindly on, and this entire episode certainly won't help him win office in the event he decides to run. Then again, think of it this way: James allegedly exerted his power and influence in shady ways to advance his own self-interests. Actually...that sounds like pretty good training for the political world.
Image via the Texas Tribune
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