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CBS PULLS PLUG ON WRIGHT; IS IT PERMANENT OR ONLY TEMPORARY?
Published January 10, 1996
CBS Sports President David Kenin issued a statement yesterday announcing that golf analyst Ben Wright will not be part of CBS' golf broadcast team when coverage begins next month. Kenin acknowledged the "continuing controversy" over comments attributed to Wright "has detracted" from CBS' golf coverage and he said "there are no plans for Wright's return" (CBS Sports). In a statement issued by Wright's agent, RLR Associates of New York, Wright apologized to CBS, the LPGA and Wilmington News- Journal reporter Valerie Helmbreck. Wright: "Despite the fact that I have been widely misquoted, there is no doubt that I have been guilty of making some insensitive remarks" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/10) MEDIA REAX: In New York, Richard Sandomir calls it a "paid suspension" covering the length of his four-year contract with CBS -- reportedly worth around $1M. The "fact that he was not fired holds out a thin, but unlikely possibility of reinstatement." Sandomir notes there are "few suitors" at other networks, while The Golf Channel may consider him in the future (N.Y. TIMES, 1/10). A source "familiar" with Wright's contract told WASHINGTON POST that it was "remotely possible Wright could be put back on golf after a year." A CBS source said honoring the contract was "a better alternative than a costly and prolonged lawsuit" (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 1/10). ESPN's Keith Olbermann: "As firings go, we should all be so lucky" ("SportsCenter," 1/9). NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay notes one CBS Sports source said "something had to be done. There were still no grounds for firing him. But things were never quieting down, it got to be too much" (NEWSDAY, 1/10). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes CBS' statement offered "ambiguity and evasiveness to encourage speculation" on Wright's possible return (USA TODAY, 1/10). In Atlanta, Prentis Rogers writes CBS is "trying to wash its hands of the controversy without totally removing the source of the controversy" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/10). Phil Mushnick notes, "Interestingly, Wright remains under contract." But he adds "no one should hold his or her breath" for Wright's return (N.Y. POST, 1/10). In Chicago, Steve Nidetz writes Wright is off the air "indefinitely. For Now" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/10). In Philadelphia, Diane Pucin writes "fine, upstanding CBS" will continue to pay Wright for four more years (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/10). Columnist George Vecsey notes CBS "needed to get rid of the distraction," while adding "it is worth noting how long it took" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/10). Kyle Smith of the N.Y. POST notes "the announcement was not only slow to come, but a total reversal of the network's staunch defense" of Wright (N.Y. POST, 1/10). In Baltimore, Milton Kent writes CBS "did the right thing" -- even if it was late (Baltimore SUN, 1/10). OTHER REAX: LPGA Commissioner Jim Ritts said CBS' announcement has "been too long in coming. But our patience has been rewarded" (USA TODAY, 1/10). Ritts told George Vecsey of the N.Y. TIMES that Wright "will no longer be a distraction" and said the continued controversy had not affected tour sponsorships (N.Y. TIMES, 1/10).