SBD/17/Sports Society

ON HIS BIG SHOW, OLBERMANN TACKLES ESPN'S LACK OF DISCLOSURE

          In his closing remarks on "The Big Show," MSNBC's Keith
     Olbermann addressed the fact that ESPN declined to divulge
     its minority-hiring numbers during its "Race & Sports"
     special.  Olbermann: "I didn't want to address this story
     because I know my view may seem a little skewed, but
     something has undermined my reluctance."  Noting Thursday's
     USA Today where ESPN declined to reveal its minority-hiring
     numbers after MLB cited in-house statistics disputing the
     network's figures, Olbermann said, "There's something wrong
     with that.  At this time when sports grapples with this
     issue, when the entire television industry grapples with it
     ... when the country as a whole tries to find the right way,
     you just can't hold back.  ESPN deserves more credit perhaps
     for consistently tackling racism in sports than for anything
     else it has ever done.  But in my years there it did not
     address this same problem within its own walls.  It is 10
     months since I left there, but as of last June the simple
     facts were these: There were 63 producers and coordinating
     producers running the studio shows in Connecticut. ...
     Fifty-eight of those were white men."  He added that his
     numbers may "not have been statistically precise" and that
     "there may have been significant steps taken since I left --
      I don't know."  Olbermann: "But I do know that in this very
     sensitive area to everyone, if you devote two hours of
     television to decry how poorly sports leagues handle the
     questions of minority hiring, saying that you decline to
     divulge your own statistics just is not fair" (MSNBC, 4/16).
          RESPONSE: ESPN VP/Commun. Chris LaPlaca responded to
     Olbermann's comments, telling THE DAILY: "This was a look at
     sports, not the sports media.  We would dispute Keith's
     math.  We are progressive on-air which has a positive
     societal impact and we continue to work toward cultivating
     diversity with several major initiatives" (THE DAILY).
 
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