What started out as a sensible, albeit regrettable, decision wound up being blown up by a guy who loves doing that, especially if it marks ESPN.
When the Charlottesville protests erupted two weekends ago, ESPN executives — for better or worse — wondered if there might be an issue on their hands.
With Robert E. Lee suddenly back in the news, they feared Robert Lee, a young, new play-by-play announcer assigned to the Virginia-William & Mary game on opening weekend would show up in Twitter memes and posts on Web sites like Awful Announcing or Deadspin. They were worried that his big moment, even on a lightly watched game, might turn into a national joke.
According to an ESPN executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation, ESPN asked Lee if he would be more comfortable calling another game but gave him the option to stay. Lee chose to switch assignments, and ESPN accommodated him.
This would never have been an issue at all, except for the fact that it was leaked to Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage, who frequently critiques ESPN and has accused the company of having a liberal bias.
Travis wrote about it on his Web site Tuesday night and it exploded into a national story, with Travis appearing on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program.
Mickey worried about some people behaving like dicks on social media, gave the announcer the choice to swap games, accommodated his rational decision (would you want to take the risk of being made a national punch line over something which you have no control?)… and wound up with some people behaving like dicks on social media anyway. Ain’t PC great?
UPDATE: This Will Leach piece is so smart. There are two essential points.
ESPN wasn’t being “politically correct.” They were just being corporate. The phrase “political correctness” has been morphed and twisted to the point of meaninglessness. The action that some mock as “political correctness” is less about “being political” and more about “not being a thoughtless rude jerk.” No reasonable person ever says, “I’m about to be politically correct,” unless they are purposely mocking the practice they have decided to use for their own rhetorical purposes. Here’s a way to think about what is inaccurately described as “political correctness:” Is what you are saying needlessly hurtful? Are you just saying it because you are resistant to change, or because you are resistant to understanding how someone different than you might see the world? Are you just saying it to get high-fives from people who choose to see the world just like you do? You are not being “politically incorrect.” You’re just being a jerk. Let’s not confuse the two.
It is worth noting that ESPN was not even trying to be “politically correct” in this sense. The decision-makers just thought, “How can we make sure we don’t get yelled at by our bosses because people might make fun of us on a Saturday afternoon?” The issue for ESPN here isn’t “political correctness.” It’s rabbit ears.
And two —
Clay Travis has clearly lost his mind. There has long been a school of thought that Clay Travis, who used to write about college football for Fox Sports but now mostly talks about globalist cucks and head lice, is actually a smart person who has decided that the way he can advance his personal brand is to try to become the Sean Hannity of sports and appeal to a select, but stubbornly, resolutely focused, sliver of the sports fan audience. As someone who has worked with Travis in the past, briefly at both Deadspin and Fox Sports 1, and found him mostly affable and effusive in person, let me humbly submit that if Travis’ “Sean Hannity of sports” schtick began as an act, the artist and performance have since merged into an unrecognizable singularity. He’s more Pepe the Frog than man now.
In a post on Outkick the Coverage that “broke” this “story” — please do not be distracted by the ads for Outkick the Coverage; there might be some for Infowars-esque Outkick Super Male Vitality Drops by the time this is published — Travis breathlessly screams about “MSESPN!” and their desire to avoid “offending left wing idiots.” This is Travis’ game, of course, and he is surely doing a victory lap today, having uncovered the vast, left-wing ESPN agenda he has convinced himself to be real. But let’s not forget that he’s the one who did the framing on this. What Travis believes to be a liberal conspiracy, a normal person might see as “a big corporation not really understanding social media well and doing something stupid they mistakenly thought would remain privately stupid, as a result.” Turning this into a political issue benefits Travis — it gets him on Breitbart and allows him to beg Skip Bayless to have him on his show — but is not actually what is so funny and ridiculous about this. Travis has invested so much of his personal and professional capital in “guy who tells the TRUTH about the liberal media AGENDA” that it’s all he can see. He’s a hammer who thinks the whole world is a nail, the lone truth teller in a world full of cucks. Sign up for VIP Membership. Get a Free T-Shirt!
ESPN is guilty of nothing more than ineptness. Clay Travis is a consummate asshole. If you can’t see the difference, that’s on you.