Column: A worldwide leader in sports and/or hypocrisy

Robert Downen, Opinions Editor

I think it’s time ESPN change its slogan. Some suggestions:

-“ESPN: The Worldwide Leader In Gross Speculation”

-“ESPN: We Made $10 billion Last Year, So No, We Don’t Really Care About Covering Hockey…”

-“ESPN: Your First Stop for Stories About Lebron James’ Bowel Movements.”

-“ESPN: It’s Mostly Just People Yelling At Each Other.”

-“ESPN: The Worldwide Leader In Not Pissing People Named Roger Off.”

That last one, I think, has been the network’s unofficial moniker for the last month or so, as is evident by the three-week suspension handed to Bill Simmons last week. The network officially suspended Simmons, who heads Grantland.com and other lucrative ESPN enterprises, for calling NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a liar in a podcast last week.

Goodell said his original two-game suspension of Ray Rice was done without knowledge of the attack’s brutality, a statement that has been hotly contested as being entirely false. This is what Simmons had to say about it:

“Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar. I’m just saying it. He is lying If you put him up on a lie detector test, that guy would fail. For all these people to pretend they didn’t know is such [expletive] [expletive]. It really is, it’s such [expletive] [expletive]. For him to go into that press conference and pretend otherwise—I was so insulted.”

It took ESPN less than 24 hours to hand Simmons a three-week suspension. The network said in a statement, “Every employee must be accountable to ESPN and those engaged in our editorial operations must also operate within ESPN’s journalistic standard… Bill Simmons did not meet those obligations in a recent podcast.”

And yes, we’re talking about the same ESPN.

You know, the network that once refused to cover the Ben Roethlisberger rape case. Yes, that one—the one that defended Rush Limbaugh’s racist comments on Donovan McNabb because they appreciated his “no holds barred” approach to sports.

This is the same network that gave Lebron James full advertisement control during “The Decision.” A network predicated almost entirely on wild guesses and “inside sources” actually had the audacity to suspend someone under the guise “journalistic standards.”

Let’s forget that Simmons’ suspension is a week longer than the original suspension handed out to Ray Rice (you know, for beating his wife).

Let’s ignore that Simmons’ hiatus will be three times longer than what Stephen A. Smith received for essentially saying women shouldn’t provoke domestic abuse.

Let’s just focus on one phrase here: “journalistic standards.”

Because anyone even peripherally aware of how ESPN operates likely understands that the network moved out of the field of journalism a long, long time ago. And so, to pretend otherwise—to frame the Simmons decision as anything more than punishing a writer bold enough to bite the hand that feeds—is downright offensive.

That ESPN thinks the average sports fan dumb enough, or just wholly apathetic enough, to not question the workings behind that decision, should tell us just how much they value their viewers.

If ESPN wanted to suspend Simmons because what he did was bad for business, then that’s fine. At the end of the day, they have an investment to protect (to the tune of $10 billion in revenue in 2013).

But they should own that decision. And consequently, should never be afforded the luxury of doing so under some newfound love for journalistic ethics.

I think it’s about time we start calling ESPN what it is: a gigantic, corporate monopoly, masquerading under an embarrassing level of journalism, and that’s it.

The sooner they admit that fact, the sooner they’ll see outrage from real journalists quell, and the sooner they’ll be anything more than a massive juggernaut built on sensationalism and contradiction.

Robert Downen is a senior journalism major. He can be reached at 581-7912 or [email protected]