Ethics Quiz: The Announcer’s Suspension

North Carolina State basketball and football announcer Gary Hahn, broadcasting the NC State-Maryland Mayo Bowl game, said at one point, “down among all the illegal aliens in El Paso it’s UCLA 14 and Pittsburgh 6.” Learfield Communications suspended the Wolfpack Sports Network play-by-play announcer “indefinitely” following the game.

Various media outlets have described the statement as “offensive,” but it was unquestionably factual.

illegal immigrants are crossing the border into El Paso, Texas at a record pace. The mayor has declared a state of emergency. If it was the politically incorrect term “illegal alien” that was deemed offensive, the description is still used on some official government websites, perhaps because that’s what they are.

There is some crucial information we don’t have yet, though. Does Learfield Communications have a policy forbidding its announcers from making political comments during broadcasts? It should. There is no justification at all for sports broadcasters to bring non-sports topics, opinions and commentary into their broadcasts. I regard doing that as offensive whether I agree with the commentary or not. It is unprofessional: I don’t care what a baseball of football play-by-play announcer thinks about anything other that the game he or she is describing, and using that role to make gratuitous comments on public issues and current events is an abuse of position.

Was Hahn warned about this in the past? If this was his first offense, even if there is a policy, an indefinite suspension is unethically severe, so I won’t even bring that factor into today’s employment ethics Ethics Quiz, which is…

Can suspending Hahn for making a gratuitous reference to El Paso’s “illegal aliens” be ethically justified?

Outkick points out that Hahn might be excused for thinking that such editorializing is acceptable today based on the conduct of broadcasters like ESPN’s Mark Jones. ESPN (that’s Disney!) seems to encourage Jones, who routinely injects his extreme, woke, biased opinions into his basketball game coverage, constantly slamming Donald Trump, denigrating conservatives, even at one point making the false claim that Jacob Blake was unarmed to jibe with Black Lives Matter propaganda. The problem with that excuse for Hahn is 1) ESPN has clearly given Jones, at least, a green light to be unprofessional 2) Jones is black, and as we have seen elsewhere (CNN’s Don Lemon), there are different standards of professionalism for some black broadcast journalists. 3)Making gratuitous statements that offend conservatives is okay; offending progressives, even with facts, is currently far more risky.

My quiz answer: Absent a written policy, Hahn should have been warned and nothing more. If he violated a policy, a brief suspension would send a valid message.

I, however, am not broadcasting football or basketball game. They are illegal aliens (or illegal immigrants), not “migrants” or the other euphemisms and cover phrases, and that’s what they should be called, so the public understands the issue.

9 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Announcer’s Suspension

  1. He shouldn’t be suspended for that. As you said, it’s an absolute fact. They shouldn’t talk politics in sports for reasons you’ve covered but at this point is more of a “don’t drink and drive” campaign more than political. He should not have to apologize for saying the truth, if they don’t want politics in sports, they need to stop being partisan asshats.
    Doubt you’ve seen this. There’s money for ranchers and farmers along the border because enough people are trespassing on private property they’re causing monetary damage. Never mind how insane it is to imagine thousands of people daily just taking a drink from your stock tanks with your cows, constantly damaging fences. The risk to yourself and your family by being around so many unknown possibly dangerously desperate people willing to break laws for who who knows what reason.

  2. Can suspending Hahn for making a gratuitous reference to El Paso’s “illegal aliens” be ethically justified?

    Possibly, under the Second Niggardly Principle, there is justification for taking action. Whether or not the suspension itself was justified depends upon the policy and procedures applicable to his employment contract. If we color the behavior unethical under the Second Niggardly Principle as I have done, the company should set it against similar conduct and the consequences thereof in their applicable written procedures.

  3. There’s some context here. Actually, I think there’s a LOT of context here. This is the Deep South and this is SEC and ACC football country. College football is more important than life itself. And frankly, this announcer is a dinosaur. He’s white and most likely in his sixties. NC State’s football players are likely eighty to ninety percent black kids. Frankly, I can’t believe this guy is still employed. Of course, the vast majority of NC State fans are white and southern. This guy evidently has a long history with “the program.” Maybe the good ‘ol boys are still running the NC State “program” (code for “one of the greatest scams going for white guys in charge”) and the AD and those guys have the ability to pick and approve the announcer. Frankly, I’m stunned the extremely highly compensated Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at NC State hasn’t already had some young black guy put in the broadcast booth to replace this white guy, who should see which way the wind is blowing, wake up and smell the coffee and just go fishin.’ Older NC State fans may love this guy, but they’re a disappearing demographic. Why’s this guy still working? I think it’s unethical for guys to work way, way past the time they need the money and past the time they are relevant.

    • He’s been the play-by-play announcer for NC State football and basketball since 1990, so this would be his 33rd season. Prior to that he worked for Louisville, Ohio State, and Alabama.

      I’ve listened to a number of games that he has broadcast — I recognized the voice, and he’s always struck me as a pretty decent broadcaster.

      He graduated from Butler in 1974, so he would be about mid-60s. Starting to get up there, but could be good for another decade or two in that sort of job.

      Unless he has had previous ‘offenses’ that he was warned about and/or suspended for, I think an indefinite suspension is over the top. Yes, play-by-play announcers shouldn’t be injecting politics in their broadcast, no matter what their beliefs might be.

      This strikes me as akin to taking out your pistol and blowing away your puppy the first time he piddles on the floor.

  4. I dunno. If there is a clear policy and he violated it, then his suspension might justified. If there is no such policy, then no.

    But, sports should be politically neutral (yeah, I know . . .). I was listening to an NPR show this morning about some Santa guy and his experience. Apparently, a little girl asked him if it was true Mrs. Claus baked the best cookies. The recorded exchange had the Santa guy telling her that Mrs. Claus was the North Pole CEO, that he and the elves worked for her, and the little girl could do anything she wanted, interjecting a women message in the pr

      • God, that’s awful. “You can grow up to be a partner at Goldman Sachs, little girl. Meeerrrry Christmas!” And here I thought it was woke correctness to not tell your kids to believe in Santa Claus because he’s a myth, like, oh say, the idea that anyone can grow up to be a partner at Goldman Sachs.

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