SBD/July 29, 2014/Media

ESPN Execs Go All Hands On Deck For Smith's Apology, But Did They Do Enough?

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ESPN execs decided to tape Smith's apology rather than do it live
The highest levels of ESPN management "were involved" in how Stephen A. Smith's apology for comments about domestic violence "would play out" yesterday, according to sources cited by Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Sources said that it was "decided to tape it rather than do it live -- and that plenty of people weighed in on how ESPN should handle" the start of yesterday's episode of "First Take" (SI.com, 7/28). ESPN VP/PR Josh Krulewitz declined to comment on "whether any advertisers had pulled (or threatened to pull) their ads" from the show (ADWEEK.com, 7/28). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes ESPN has "not decided whether it will suspend Smith, but its decision may be clear: He was back on the air quickly, at least to apologize as soon as possible." The net said Smith "recognizes his mistakes." But Sandomir writes if Smith is not suspended, it "suggests that we need to understand ESPN’s discipline handbook." Sandomir: "How offensive need someone be to earn a week or more off?" Two ESPN employees in '12 "used the phrase 'chink in the armor' in reference to Jeremy Lin." One of them, an anchor, "got a 30-day suspension; the other, an editor who used the phrase in a headline on ESPN’s mobile website, was fired" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/29). Media reporter Ed Sherman noted after Smith offered his apology, "First Take" co-host Cari Champion weighed in, then the show "kicked off as if it was a normal Monday in Bristol: Talk about LeBron choosing No. 23 for his new jersey in Cleveland." Sherman: "Shouldn't there have been a further examination of what Stephen A. experienced on Friday? Perhaps more talk on why this is such a hot button issues? ... Nope." ESPN "just wants this all to go away," as the net issued a statement "shortly after Smith's apology" (SHERMANREPORT.com, 7/28).

OUT OF HIS ELEMENT? The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly writes in a pre-Internet age, Smith's comments "might not even have registered." That "one stray thought was lost in an incoherent blizzard of verbiage." But in "consistently raising the temperature around hot-button issues, ESPN has invited a strict, line-by-line policing of some of their host’s statements." This "doesn’t show that Stephen A. Smith is an enemy of women." Rather, it is "proof that he's paid to do something he’s not particularly good at -- debate serious, incendiary social issues in a decidedly unserious forum" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/29).

RADIO DAZE: RADIO INK reported Smith "will be getting his own show on SiriusXM," but while reports from over the weekend had him joining Mad Dog Radio, the show "will be an extension of ESPN." Smith will "continue to be an employee of ESPN and his new national show will be produced by ESPN." The show, which is "expected to launch some time after Labor Day," will distributed by Mad Dog Radio. Smith will "continue to appear" on ESPN radio and TV shows (RADIOINK.com, 7/28).
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