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.