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Thursday, July 27, 2006

ESPN SILENCE COVERS REYNOLDS RAP--NY Daily News, Raissman

Harold told USA Today it was philosophical differences, not sexual harassment. Bob Raissman, as usual, has the story. "While responding to inquires concerning his demise at ESPN, Harold Reynolds presented a variety of answers, which only led to more questions.

Questions that will follow him for quite awhile.

Reynolds told the New York Post he wanted his job back, explaining he was fired for "giving a woman a hug" that he felt was "misinterpreted."

But Reynolds told USA Today he was ousted because: "They (ESPN suits) made a decision to have a change in direction. I respect their decision, but I don't necessarily agree with it." Reynolds added he already was considering several job offers while his attorney was working on a financial settlement with ESPN. This would seem to indicate he either does not want his ESPN job back or already knows ESPN won't take him back.

When I asked Reynolds what happened, he said something about a difference "in philosophy" that he might talk about in a "couple of" days. "Don't press me," he said. "I'm a nice guy."

That's not really the issue here. Until someone offers concrete proof, Reynolds' ultimate transgression will be open to speculation. This is bad news for him. It's also bad for anyone who values the truth. And it has everything to do with the way ESPN brass chose to handle this situation.

By offering no reason for firing Reynolds, ESPN suits released a torrent of rumors. They also provided cover for Reynolds, allowing him to provide different answers to what likely were the same questions. Reynolds, a former major leaguer, certainly knows how to cover all the bases.

It's not surprising that people looking for answers would start asking questions about sexual harassment. It is no secret that over the years, ESPN has had its share of problems with that issue. Some consider ESPN a haven for men who behave badly. After all, when two ESPN Radio hosts gleefully talk on the air about one urinating on the other's shoes, what do you think goes on off-air at ESPN?

One only has to read Michael Freeman's book, "ESPN: The Uncensored History," to get some of the sordid details of incidents that have taken place at the all-sports cable network.

So, when reports of Reynolds' firing surfaced, it was no shock that ESPN suits elected to stonewall. They have done it before. They have reasons for their silent treatment. An ESPN executive might ask a reporter that if someone at "your newspaper" gets fired, would it publish a story about why it happened? Or would your boss offer the media a reason for a particular dismissal?

This rationale fails to take into account that unlike your average newspaper reporter, Reynolds, like other high profile ESPN talent, is a celebrity. ESPN is a national TV network that goes into 90 million homes. When someone is suddenly fired, those who watch the network want to know why. They care about a guy like Reynolds.

Someone at ESPN also might tell you there are legal issues to consider. Or how there is no need, after someone is fired, to ruin his or her chances of ever getting another gig by releasing the gory details.

In some respects this is admirable. Still, like it has in the past, the policy allows some deviant who has preyed on a woman to move to another network and do it again. Maybe shedding light on one of these incidents could stop another from happening.

There is some irony - and duplicity - in this whole Reynolds situation. There has been no shortage of ESPN broadcasters who, at times, have called on owners, league commissioners or players to engage in full disclosure. And yet, when an incident like the Reynolds thing goes down at ESPN, the suits don't take the advice of their own commentators whose opinions are constantly hyped by ESPN's PR machine.

On ESPN, and ESPN Radio, the fact that Reynolds is gonzo has been reported, but you have not heard any commentary concerning his sudden exit. If a personality from another network was dumped, with no reason attached, ESPN would be all over it.

So, there also is some hypocrisy in ESPN's stance. This does not matter to the Bristol suits. And it won't matter the next time a similar situation presents itself.

For when it comes to cleaning up a messy situation, the light truth provides is a hindrance.

At ESPN, darkness is the detergent of choice." 7/27/06

  • My suggestion: Get rid of every last guy or gal they have on the air. Run highlights. Nothing else. Starting today.

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