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ESPN Personalities Who Criticize Texas Could get Replaced

Remember the blockbuster TV deal the University of Texas signed with ESPN? The Longhorn Network is set to go live in August after ESPN agreed to pay them around $300 million for the next 20 years. Well apparently Texas is in such high demand ESPN signed a sweetheart deal just to lock them up. So much so that they’ve conceded the ability to criticize the school in their contract.

The Austin American-Statesman via Ben Maller did some digging and discovered this alarming aspect of the contract:

“In the event that UT reasonably determines that any on-air talent does not reflect the quality and reputation desired by UT for the Network based on inappropriate statements made or actions taken by such talent and so notifies ESPN, ESPN will cause such talent to be promptly replaced (and will in any event no longer allow them on air following such notice).”

The first rule of ESPN and Texas’ broadcasting arrangement is you do not talk badly about the Longhorns. The second rule of ESPN and Texas’ broadcasting arrangement is you do not talk badly about the Longhorns. The third rule of ESPN and Texas’ broadcasting arrangement is you do not talk badly about the Longhorns.

Does anyone else see a problem here? Is it alarming to anyone else that one of the largest and most important sports networks in the country won’t be allowed to say anything controversial about one of the biggest football programs around? I understand objectivity is tough to achieve, but there’s a difference between having natural biases and outright cheerleading. I’m afraid we’re veering into dangerous ground here.



Around The Web

  • http://twitter.com/jtl1005 John Todd Langdon

    This means that UT could ask that, for example, Rashard Mendenhall not continue to speak for UT after offensive tweets? Then it looks prudent to me.

  • Anonymous

    They already say nothing nasty about the Yankees and Red Sox.

  • Anonymous

    They already say nothing critical about the Yankees, Red Sox and Jets. Throw another on the list.

  • http://twitter.com/MsPotts_ESPN Keri Potts

    Larry, what you have written here is completely inaccurate.
    That language is not about critical analysis of University of Texas’ teams or athletic performance. It’s about extreme cases of inappropriate comments and/or conduct. Any institution or business would have expectations of protecting its brand in circumstances that obviously would be considered serious by any objective measure.

    Keri Potts, ESPN Communications

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    Hi Keri, thanks for replying. The language from the contract as reported by the Statesman says:

    “In the event that UT reasonably determines that any on-air talent does not reflect the quality and reputation desired by UT for the Network based on inappropriate statements made or actions taken by such talent and so notifies ESPN, ESPN will cause such talent to be promptly replaced (and will in any event no longer allow them on air following such notice).”

    Based on that paragraph from the contract, it’s reasonable to write that a personality who criticizes Texas (and does not reflect the reputation they desire) could be replaced. Was there further language in the contract that explained it’s only about extreme cases of inappropriate comments or conduct that the Statesman left out?

    I think it’s important for viewers to know the background of the deal.

  • Carson Guy

    It seems to be a much more reasonable interpretation of the quoted language that the University of Texas is reserving the right to a minimum level of quality “for the Network.”  The interpretation implied by this article seems to be a stretch.

    Under no reading of the language, that I can see, could it be inferred that on-air talent must reflect an adequate fervor for the quality and reputation of UT.  Rather it seems the language is setting a minimum level, chosen by UT, for the quality and reputation of the on-air talent that appears on the network. Such a contractual clause would hardly be surprising, while on the other hand, a clause like the one advanced by this article would be sensational and likely incapable of remaining a secret. A fact I am sure would not be lost on either ESPN or the University of Texas.

    Keep up the good work! Love the BleacherReport!

    Edited for clarity.