KABOOM! ESPN Achieves A New Low In Unethical Journalism: Misinforming The Public Out Of Spite

If you told me ESPN COULD make my head explode, I wouldn't have believed you...

If you told me ESPN COULD make my head explode, I wouldn’t have believed you…

ESPN has been foundering in a sea of ethical ignorance for some time now, but this was shocking even for them.

In a petty exercise to express its disdain and and anger at dismissed baseball commentator Curt Schilling, the sports network excised an entire section of its documentary on the legendary 2004 American League Championship play-offs when it was shown last night prior to the scheduled Red Sox-Yankee game. I cannot think of a single example of unethical journalism by a major outlet so blatant and so offensive.

Let’s go back a bit. Schilling is an outspoken religious conservative, active on social media. He was suspended from his baseball game broadcasting duties last season after comparing Islamic radicals to Nazis in a Twitter post—not all that unreasonable, actually, but if ESPN has a policy against its employees making controversial political statements on social media, and apparently it does, Schilling was asking for trouble.

Indeed, Curt has nothing if not integrity when it comes to expressing himself, and he could not resist commenting on the transgender bathroom controversy, re-tweeting a particularly ugly meme on the issue:

transgender bathroom tweet

ESPN fired Curt. He had earlier in the year opined in a radio interview that “If I’m gonna believe, and I don’t have any reason not to believe, that she gave classified information on hundreds if not thousands of emails on a public server after what happened to General Petraeus, she should buried under a jail somewhere.” Allowing for hyperbole, that’s a perfectly legitimate position to take, but again, if ESPN doesn’t want Curt, who it was paying a million bucks or so, to take shots at someone it believed its audience members were fond of,  it can instruct its employees accordingly. It expressed its objections to Schilling, and he tweeted the meme anyway.

It’s hard not to call it intentional defiance. He is a high-profile figure in baseball, and an ESPN baseball commentator. The network could take the position that its employees’ political and social views are theirs alone, do not reflect the network’s views and should not be attributed to ESPN, but it doesn’t. Okay, that’s a condition of employment, and Curt Schilling had to be fully aware of it when he decided to post that meme.

Do I think ESPN’s policy is wrong? I do. It’s a sports network. I do not see why anyone inclined to watch a baseball game broadcast would care what a baseball analyst’s politics and prejudices are. Schilling, especially, is such an outspoken political and social conservative that none of his social media commentary could possibly surprise anyone who knows who he is. Nonetheless, that’s ESPN’s policy and it has every right to stick to it.

Schilling, predictably, did not go down with a whimper.  A week after being fired, he was a guest  on SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s “Breitbart News Patriot Forum,” and told the radio audience that ESPN was biased against political conservatives and employed double standards, saying,  “It was apparent to me early on that if you wanted to go off topic as a sports person you had to go off topic left, or you were going to get in trouble.”

Oh, Curt was and is right, no doubt about it. After the show, he was asked for examples. Here was one: “You listen to Stephen A. Smith, and Stephen A. Smith was the guy who said that Robert Griffin didn’t play quarterback for the Redskins because he’s black,” said Curt. “No, Robert Griffin didn’t play quarterback for the Redskins because he [stunk].”

Bingo. Smith is a racialist and race-baiter, as are several ESPN commentators. Is it worse to accuse Hillary Clinton of being a felon off the network than to falsely accuse the Washington Redskins of being racist on it? Schilling is 100% correct: ESPN is engaging in political correctness and left-leaning speech suppression.

How did ESPN respond to Schilling’s comments? Well, it couldn’t fire him again, and it has no rebuttal, since he is correct on the facts. So here is how it decided to strike back: on Sunday evening, in preparation for the ESPN Game of the Week, the network  re-broadcast “Four Days in October,” a 2010 documentary about the Boston Red Sox comeback from a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees to reach, and eventually win, the World Series.  One key section was mysteriously missing, however: Schilling’s heroic, historic and iconic Game 6 start, in which he went to the mound in a must-win game despite an ankle injury that required his tendon to be temporarily sewn to his skin. Blood seeped into his sock visibly during the game, which Schilling won. It is justly regarded as one of the most selfless and gritty sports performances of all time, and the centerpiece of the Red Sox unprecedented comeback.

Of course everyone noticed, and correctly took this as a corporate middle finger to Schilling. “Attack us, and watch us airbrush you out of sports history! Take that, asshole!” was the intended message. ESPN then insulted the universe by denying that the snub was intentional, saying in a statement,

“When a live event runs long, it’s standard procedure to shorten a taped program that follows. In this case, we needed to edit out 1 of the film’s 4 segments to account for the extra length of the softball game.”

Mediaite’s Joe Concha had the appropriate response to that transparent lie:

“Uh-huh. So out of the entire 53 minutes of the doc, the expendable portion — the one that wasn’t important to the story — was determined to be what many Red Sox fans would say was one of the most memorable performances in the team’s 115-year history in the form of Schilling pitching through pain and blood in a hostile environment while silencing an awesome Yankee offense? When compared to most iconic moments in baseball history, this was the rarefied stuff legends are made of…. This is the equivalent of editing Donald Trump out of a documentary that looks back on the primary season thus far. And for ESPN to try to pretend it never happened all to carry out a grudge against a former employee? Bush league stuff from an increasingly bush league network… apparently run by children.”

Apparently. It is much worse than childish, though. ESPN is a sports journalism organization. Intentionally misrepresenting facts to the public in order to express personal animus is shows contempt for basic ethical standards and professionalism. Curt Schilling’s baseball accomplishments are a matter of record, and for an organization of ESPN’s prominence to pretend they don’t exist in order to carry out an act of revenge against a former employee is as about as unprecedented in the field as the Red Sox prevailing after being down 0-3 in a seven game play-off.

It also makes Schilling’s analysis of the organization’s fairness and enforcement of standards even more credible.

 

31 thoughts on “KABOOM! ESPN Achieves A New Low In Unethical Journalism: Misinforming The Public Out Of Spite

  1. That is truly outrageous. Curt Schilling the baseball player is a legend in his own time (although I can remember him with the Phillies acting like a child while closer Mitch Williams crashed and burned during a key game). Curt Schilling as an ordinary person — not so much. I don’t like him. He can spew all the horrible things he wants to. That’s his right. But I will never consider him anything but a fantastic baseball player. ESPN should be ashamed of themselves.

    • Patrice, you blame Schilling for being horrified at being relieved by Mitch Williams? What was Williams’ nick name? Wild Thing? The guy was a one man save wrecking crew.

      • Absolutely true about Williams. But Schilling could have been more professional in the dugout. He acted like a brat, instead of showing no emotion like the rest of the team. As a team player, you stand behind the other members of the team, no matter how badly they perform. You can show negative emotions about the other team, but not your own.

        • I guess there’s an exception to every rule, Patrice, and the Phillies continuing to use Williams was one of those situations that justified an exception. I liked Schilling transparency. It’s a game. I doubt Williams could see him from the mound.

          • I guess. But I think that he could have behaved himself until he could charge into the management office and rant at them for continuing to use Williams.

            • Valid point. But baseball’s a kids’ game and Schilling is in so many ways just a big (6’5″) kid. I found his obvious pain, and his showing it, very endearing. Not the correct corporate behavior but pleasantly human. Plus, Schilling was a high school phenom in Phoenix when we first moved there so I guess I still think of him as just a kid. Who became a very effective major league pitcher who was instrumental in his hometown team, incredibly enough, denying the Yankees another Championship, bringing great joy to Mudville, er, Phoenix.

              • Don’t get me wrong. I have a smushy soft spot for Curt Schilling, who thrilled us in Philly when he was pitching 98 mph pitches to some big time batter (name escapes me, though it shouldn’t, but then I’m old), striking out the smirking egotist 3 times that day. I just wish Schilling weren’t such a jerk.

                • Curt’s complex. He runs a legitimate charity. He thinks and writes, and is so much more politically literate than the average athlete that he belongs in his own category. He’s openly religious and unapologetically so, and is roundly mocked for it by sports writers, who resent the fact that a player dares to express himself in print and even rebut their pronouncements. He’s also a political conservative, which is typical for a jock, but reads and pays attention, which is not. None of this relates, or should, to his baseball accomplishments and expertise. His intensity and intelligence made him a great player, and they also caused him to occasionally not suffer fools gladly. Mitch Williams, an idiot, would be exactly the kind of player that would drive Curt nuts. He also got in Manny Ramirez’s face. Good.

  2. When someone controls the method of communication, they can write anything and everything they choose in or out. If I had a nickel for every post on artist fanboards before the advent of social media that I saw erased or partially erased because it didn’t comport with the board owners’ views, I’d be a rich man indeed. If you complained, they would remind you, sometimes in less-than-polite terms, that they owned the board, so sign on or sign out. This is just that kind of airbrushing on a higher level.

  3. I imagine if they venture into hard history there would be a denial of the holocaust?

    Schilling’s behaviors have nothing to do with this. What ESPN has done is insult Red Sox and baseball fans everywhere by an intentional and spiteful deletion of one of the greatest moments in sports history.

    Schilling can be an arse and everyone knows that from his too quick tweets to his Studio 38 debacle, but to attempt this type of purge is ludicrous.

    • That’s coming, although probably not specifically Holocaust denial – playing up US and UK atrocities, yes, playing up segregation in the armed forces and the poor treatment of Japanese Americans, yes, second-guessing a lot of decisions, yes.

      • I love baseball and the posting boards are lighting up with this story. I wrote a story on it and it has been retweeted constantly. Even Yankee fans are ticked off. ESPN better get damage control going pronto!

  4. He was suspended from his baseball game broadcasting duties last season after comparing Islamic radicals to Nazis in a Twitter post—not all that unreasonable, actually, but if ESPN has a policy against its employees making controversial political statements on social media, and apparently it does, Schilling was asking for trouble.

    I wonder why ESPN would have a problem with offending Nazis.

    Did a neo-Nazi group threaten to boycott ESPN if they did not take action against Schilling for comparing them to radical islamists?

  5. On the topic of a left leaning media: It always surprises me when a left leaning person says the media doesn’t lean left. I’ve come to the conclusion that this isn’t necessarily bald faced lying; instead it brings to light one of the differences between the left and right on the spectrum: An expectation of conformity of thought.

    If you were to say that Fox news leans right, I’d generally accept that, and ask what your point is; While I lean right and they also lean right, that doesn’t mean we agree on everything. But oftentimes when it’s said that say… MSNBC leans left (which I think is an understatement of enormous magnitude), you’ll get people who lean left ignoring blatant examples of left leaning bias because parts of MSNBC’s bias doesn’t reflect their own.

    This expectation of conformity of thought is why groups on the left often eat their own, this… intolerance of ideas that don’t identically align with theirs is the moderate parallel of today’s madness on campuses when someone from outside their group tries to speak and you see people pulling fire alarms or poring fake blood over themselves or otherwise going absolutely insane (YouTube “Trigglypuff”, it’s cruel, because I’m almost certain a mentally handicapped person is being mocked, but it’s iconic. She thought that was a good idea at the time.).

  6. Jack,
    Friendly correction: I believe the post’s title should be rendered “spite” not “spte.” Hope you’re well!

    -Neil

  7. Yes, I know: There was a missing “i” is “Spite.” I was teaching a seminar and couldn’t fix it. That will teach me to post anything before 8 AM. I’m writing this before I find out how many commenters chided me for it.

  8. Game 6 Tuesday, October 19, 2004 of the greatest baseball series ever played and they cut him out?? I find the guy to be an idiot and a buffoon but you cant tell that story without him.

    • I just checked the version of this 30 for 30 that is on Netflix…

      Happy to say Curt is still there.

      • I just checked by CD of the season and all is OK. So is my recording of the game. I understand ESPN has some sophisticated equipment in the Massachusetts area that is doing mind wipes.

        • You do understand that Netflix is a largely digital streaming service, and ESPN could with little effort change the copy Netflix has for streaming, right?

          • I just got Netflix. I doubt they have that level of capabilities – although their documentary on Lincoln’s third term didn’t seem quite right…..

  9. I don’t watch baseball. And even I remember that game and the tendon thing. There’s NO excuse and I wonder if higher ups did it or lower-middle? If higher ups have plausible deniability, will another head roll as a scapegoat?

    • I wondered about this too, Becky. If the cut was made at the last minute, it might have been done by a low-level jerk…but then ESPN should have come clean and apologized, not make such a lame excuse.

      By the way, you need to watch baseball. I will escort you to a game as your guide, and I bet I can hook you. It’s one of life’s great pleasures, like theater, chess, astronomy: but it takes some time to understand. You’re missing so much. You’ll be glad after I acculturate you, I promise. I’ve never failed yet.

    • Baseball is the Shakespeare of sports, except its easier to understand and there isn’t all the Avunculicide, Filicide, Mariticide, Matricide, Nepoticide,
      Parricide, Patricide, Prolicide, Sororicide, or Uxoricide.

      • Tinkers to Evers to Chance is so must easier to pronounce. Of course, there is managercide during the games.

    • Every year in December my wife – The Lovely Cynthia – and I stay at the same hotel in Jamaica – a nation where cricket still remains quite popular. The last visit I was invited to “give it a go” and with my age and limited skills, I was embarrassed. But certain aspects of the game – especially “pitching” would be quite compatible to a baseball/softball player.

      Now cricket trivia for Jack: Jack – do you recall the infielder the Giants signed that was a cricket player? Played quite a few years,

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