SBD/July 15, 2011/Media

ESPN Says Bruce Feldman Was Never Suspended For Participation In Leach Book

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Feldman reportedly received approval from ESPN management to help on book
ESPN Friday released a statement saying that it did not suspend college football reporter Bruce Feldman in light of his contributions to former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach's book, "Swing Your Sword." The statement reads, "There was never any suspension or any other form of disciplinary action. We took the time to review his upcoming work assignments in light of the book to which he contributed and will manage any conflicts or other issues as needed. Bruce has resumed his assignments" (THE DAILY). Blog SPORTS BY BROOKS Thursday reported Feldman "was being suspended indefinitely for his participation" in Leach's book. ESPN Senior VP & Dir of News Vince Doria, Publishing GM & Editorial Dir Gary Hoenig and ESPN.com Editor-in-Chief Pat Stiegman reportedly informed Feldman that he "has been banned from writing for any ESPN entity, is forbidden from appearing on any ESPN platform, is not allowed to Tweet from his Twitter account nor participate in any promotion" of the book. Before Texas Tech terminated Leach's contract in '09, Feldman "had agreed in principle to assist the coach in compiling material" for the biography. ESPN sources in recent months indicated that Feldman "would only participate in the Leach book project upon direct approval from ESPN management -- which Feldman indeed received." Since the book's release on Monday, Feldman "has deliberately avoided any personal promotion or mention" of it (SPORTSBYBROOKS.com, 7/14). CBSSPORTS.com's Adam Jacobi notes Feldman, "normally a fairly active tweeter, has been silent since Wednesday on his ESPN-branded Twitter account @BFeldmanESPN, and no other ESPN personalities are commenting on the matter." After news broke of Feldman's reported suspension, "Bruce Feldman" became a "tending topic fairly quickly on Twitter." Several users "made use of the #freebruce hashtag early and often, especially after 'Sports Illustrated' writer Andy Staples canceled his ESPN Insider subscription in protest" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/15). Leach "has a libel suit pending against ESPN" stemming from the controversy around his firing from Texas Tech in '09. ESPN's Craig James claimed on-air that Leach made Adam James, his son and a WR on the team, stand in a dark closet after sustaining a concussion (SI.com, 7/12).

THE TWITTER WORLD RESPONDS: The CINCINNATI ENQUIRER noted Feldman had been receiving a "lot of support on Twitter, and ESPN is being taken to the woodshed over it, which likely will continue -- at least until someone explains ESPN’s side of it" (CINCINNATI.com, 7/14). CBS News Correspondent Armen Keteyian on Twitter wrote, “I've never met Bruce Feldman other than in print, but something is obviously missing here or ESPN suspension makes NO sense.” N.Y. Daily News’ Dick Weiss: “Disappointed to hear espn has suspended bruce feldman indefinitely for role in mike leach book. a decent, hard working journalist.” San Jose Mercury News’ Jon Wilner: “So Bruce Feldman is suspended by ESPN for involvement in Leach book and Craig James still has a job. That will take some time to digest.” CBS Sports’ Bryan Fischer: “ESPN suspends one of their best writers and yet lets the guy who orchestrated to get a coach fired continue to work. Complete B.S. ESPN.” Portland Oregonian’s John Canzano: “ESPN now with the most egregious lockout in sports.” SI’s Stewart Mandel: “If you appreciate journalists who do their job professionally and with respect ... then boycott ESPN. Seriously. … One of the finest writers in the profession was suspended today because of a company's own irresponsible journalism.” Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel: “ESPN staffers are obviously muzzled on Bruce Feldman, but internal outrage is overwhelming. Good guy done bad.” CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish: “I'm late on this, but what happened to Bruce Feldman is troubling. He's a good friend and great journalist. He deserves better.” N.Y. Times’ Pete Thamel: “Reading the #freebruce hashtag and am overwhelmed. Testament to Bruce's professionalism, reputation and character.” CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd: “Bruce Feldman is as solid a person and journalist that I know. His suspension is grossly unfair.”

IT'S A WILD WORLD: In Louisville, Eric Crawford notes in "Swing Your Sword," Leach accuses Craig James of "trying to steer ESPN’s coverage of complaints brought by his son ... against Leach when he was coach at Texas Tech." Yet while Leach "made the allegation," Feldman is suspended. Crawford: "When situations like this one arise, ESPN shows its hand. It is not a sports journalism company, not in the least. The journalism is just part of the show. And even if the people providing it are talented journalists, they’re also characters in the ESPN story. ... ESPN is perhaps the most incestuous media organization in America. It has a financial stake in almost everything it covers. Often, that gets messy. It got messy at Texas Tech" (COURIER-JOURNAL.com, 7/15).
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