ESPN Apologizes After Commentator Calls Liverpool's Luis Suárez A "Cheat"
ESPN has reprimanded commentator Jon Champion after he called Liverpool FC player Luis Suárez "a cheat" following Liverpool’s second goal in the FA Cup against Conference National side Mansfield on Sunday, according to Neil Gardner of the LONDON TIMES. Suárez "appeared to use his right wrist to steer the ball" toward the goal. As Suárez performed his usual post-goal celebration by kissing the offending wrist, Champion said: "That, I’m afraid, is the work of a cheat." The broadcaster said in a statement: "We take our responsibility to deliver the highest standards of coverage to our viewers. ESPN’s editorial policy is for commentators to be unbiased and honest, to call things as they see them. Inevitably this can involve treading a fine line on occasion, especially in the heat of the moment. Comments during the Mansfield v. Liverpool match caused offence where none was intended and we have spoken to our commentator about this incident" (LONDON TIMES, 1/7). In London, Owen Gibson reported ESPN "had not been contacted by Suárez or Liverpool, but decided to act after a string of inquiries from viewers, Liverpool bloggers and the media." The club was "aggrieved by Champion's comments but had no plans to take it any further." Following the match, Mansfield CEO Carolyn Radford said the tie had been "stolen" from the club. This is ESPN's third year of a four-year deal to show 25 live FA Cup matches per season (GUARDIAN, 1/7). In London, David Kent wrote "it could be argued that the goal would not have created nearly as much of a stir had it been scored by any other player." Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers feels Suárez's reputation "goes before him." Rodgers said, "He has had seven yellow cards this year, but he hasn't warranted all seven" (DAILY MAIL, 1/7).
MIXED REACTION: Also in London, Ed Malyon reported the network's stance "has infuriated many neutrals and journalists alike." One insider said, "Cheating is breaking the rules in order to gain advantage from a situation, this is undoubtedly what Suárez did, and that he wasn't caught is an irrelevance." Football commentator Paul Sarahs defended Champion. Sarahs: "What he said immediately struck me as quite a brave call, but Jon is a vastly experienced and respected commentator who has shown throughout his career that he is even-handed and fair" (DAILY MIRROR, 1/7).