ESPN was apparently planning to air what they called a “character study TV feature” on Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma this weekend, only it seems they didn’t want Vilma to know about it. Whoever was in charge of the project did a lousy job of keeping it under wraps. As part of the study, an ESPN feature producer named Barry Abrams reached out to one of Vilma’s former teammates with the Jets, retired linebacker Eric Barton. As you can see from the photo below that Vilma posted on his Twitter account Wednesday night, Barton decided to share the letter with his buddy.
ABC/ESPN play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger was censored for a few seconds during the third quarter of the Alabama-Michigan telecast on Saturday. There was plenty of speculation about what Musburger said to get muted by the production team, and now we have our answer.
Via Deadspin, we’ve learned that Musburger said to analyst Kirk Herbstreit, “Did I miss something, or did you not piss an SEC team to play for a national championship?”
Both announcers laughed when Musburger misspoke and said “piss” instead of “pick,” which he termed “a Freudian slip, by the way.”
ABC may have given more attention to the issue by muting the line when all it amounted to was a minor misspeak. That’s probably why they released the original video to ensure Musburger wasn’t being dirty.
Below is the censored version of the video:
We make plenty of mistakes here at LBS, so I don’t mean to pick on ESPN too heavily with this. But … you have to admit the timing and severity of this mistake was pretty amusing. LeBron James had just gone off for 45 points in Game 6 for the Heat against the Celtics, and a graphic at the bottom of the ESPN screen said James still played for Cleveland. As if Cavs fans don’t already have enough, you have to tease them like that? And you really think Heat fans want their top player confused for being on a different team? No way.
Chest bump to Jimmy Traina
ESPN executive vice president and executive editor John Walsh hosted an online chat Thursday and addressed the company’s decision to hire and later fire Sarah Phillips. Phillips was exposed this week by Deadspin as someone who was hired by ESPN to write for their “Page 2″ section despite having very little writing background. She leveraged her position with ESPN, and combined with a friend/partner, to allegedly scam several people. Her aim was to gain money/and or promotion via social media from her victims.
Walsh was supposedly “asked” a question about Phillips during his chat. Based on the way it was phrased, the question seemed planted by ESPN (or specifically chosen by them) so that they could formulate a response that wouldn’t make them look too bad. Let’s look at Walsh’s response:
ESPN has a commercial advertising its mobile platforms, and the ad features an exciting clip from the Indiana-Kentucky game in December. Most people probably don’t think twice about the ad, but apparently it’s motivated the Wildcats.
Kentucky is the No. 1 team in the country and 30-1 on the season. The commercial plays Indiana’s buzzer-beating three pointer that won the game. Every time the Kentucky players see the ad, they’re reminded of their lone blemish.
“Oh, I turn the TV off,” forward Terrence Jones said about the commercial. “Every time. I know I turn the TV off every time I see that commercial. I almost sold my iPhone, my iPad. I turn the TV off.”
Coach John Calipari called the ESPN commercial “one of the greatest services for my program,” noting that his players get angry every time they see it.
“It shows like 100 times on ESPN a day,” Anthony Davis said. “That really makes us mad. It’s just the way we lost. We never want to have that feeling again.”
Kentucky is one of the favorites to win the NCAA Tournament. If they end up taking it all, ESPN should get credit for an assist.
Below is a video of the commercial:
“This had nothing to do with me being cute or punny,” Anthony Federico told the New York Daily News.
“I’m so sorry that I offended people. I’m so sorry if I offended Jeremy.”
Federico tells the paper he’s used that headline many times before and he didn’t think anything of it.
“My faith is my life,” he said. “I’d love to tell Jeremy what happened and explain that this was an honest mistake.”
It’s nice that Federico apologized and somewhat comforting that he says he made an honest mistake. I wouldn’t expect otherwise; would anyone who hopes to land another job admit to being a racist? Of course not.
I still believe ESPN did the right thing by firing him and don’t feel badly he lost his job. Whether it was an honest mistake or not, you can’t have someone in such an important position acting that carelessly.
ESPN announced Sunday that they fired the employee responsible for the offensive Jeremy Lin headline that appeared on their mobile website after Friday’s game. They also announced that TV anchor Max Bretos was suspended 30 days for using the same phrase during an on-air interview.
ESPN has acted swiftly two days in a row in response to the controversy. They apologized early Saturday morning, hours after the headline appeared on their site. A day later they fired one employee and suspended the other.
The firing was the right way to handle things. At worst, the headline was intentionally racist. At best, the employee had no idea about the word’s offensive meaning. Either way, you can’t have someone who doesn’t know better writing headlines for your company.