When you work for a company, for better or worse, you are subjected to their rules.
The initial reaction to reading something like this is anger and frustration. ESPN is the biggest sports media enterprise in the world.
They have some of the most recognizable media personalities in the country, whose job it is to give their opinions on any and everything, including social commentary. So on some level you could say this is hypocrisy on their part.
I will explain why in a second, but here is what The Big Lead has discovered.
According to four difference sources, ESPN sent out an email to the editorial side in the last 24 hours reminding them to “avoid political commentary” in the social media space. We’re told the email – which was not company-wide, but rather by department – specifically referenced the Trayvon Martin tragedy.
In the email, ESPN brass gently reminded its employees to avoid discussing Martin’s death on twitter. Martin’s hoodie was mentioned.
ESPN speaks on social commentary all the time, once it bleeds over into sports especially in regard to race. The moment that the Miami Heat made a strong statement by wearing Hoodies in tribute to Trayvon Martin it crossed over to sports. ESPN being the preeminent sports media company should be able to cover it fairly and responsibly.
On and off air.
As we have found out from the Warren Sapp vs. Jeremy Shockey incident, there is a gray area on how much freedom employees have in regard to their social media spaces.
It is obvious that someone like Chris Mortensen uses his Twitter as an extension of ESPN, while someone like Jemele Hill is a lot more personable and friendly with hers.
It is a fine line and I am not throwing ESPN under the bus. They have to protect themselves, but are they doing that at the expense of censoring their own talent?
Is it ok to to make fun of Tiger Woods affairs, call Chris Bosh “Bosh Spice” or discuss Tim Tebow’s religion, but not ok give social commentary about a tragedy that the whole country is talking about? Randy Moss has been called a Thug before & Rush Limbaugh was given a job at ESPN.
Speaking of Tebow, there isn’t a policy in place to “tread lightly” in regard to speaking about his religious beliefs and how that makes him a better football player or person. If Skip Bayless wants to wear a Tebow jersey and says he is a “believer” why is that allowed, but a hoodie isn’t? Why can’t the talent at ESPN speak intelligently about how sports blends in with this tragic event. Furthermore if it is their personal space why can’t they express their frustration about this as they would a random shooting in their neighborhood?
Where is the line drawn?
I don’t have the answer as I see both sides, but as someone who in his youth dreamed of working for ESPN, there are times I am happy that I am able to speak freely without having to tread lightly.