Such was the case last week when former Star sports scribe Jason Whitlock hammered a Sports Illustrated writer, accusing him of being a hack and churning out a bogus hit piece on the Oklahoma State football team “that can’t be taken seriously.”
“Sports Illustrated’s reporting on the scandal at Oklahoma State has been questioned by many – including former players interviewed by the reporters — but the loudest voice challenging the veracity of the magazine’s expose has been told to dial down the rhetoric,” writes the New York Daily News. “Jason Whitlock – who was hired by ESPN last month but hasn’t had a byline on the site yet — came out swinging with an over-the-top attack on SI reporter Thayer Evans on Tuesday, which led his employer to call the columnists remarks ‘not acceptable.’
“We have discussed Jason’s comments with him. They were personal in nature, they do not represent ESPN and they are not acceptable based on the standards we have set,” ESPN told The Sherman Report on Sports Media.
The ringer Whitlock got his teet stuck in this time was an Oklahoma City radio station that had Whitlock on in the interest of discounting the Sports Illustrated report.
Turns out ESPN has a policy prohibiting its staffers from bashing competitors. Which as sports-minded Kansas Citians well know is the opposite of Whitlock’s style. It’s a lame policy, as many respected media organization (including the Kansas City Star) have engaged – and had full time employees – who’s job it was to do that very thing.
”Comments must not be personal, vicious, dismissive…No cheap shots,” reads one portion of ESPN’s policy. “(And) no personal attacks or innuendo toward people, media companies, networks or publications.”
Whitlock blew past those caution flags, telling the station and listeners, “Having worked with Thayer Evans at Fox Sports, having followed his work for some time, I am completely and utterly flabbergasted that a legitimate news outlet would allow Thayer Evans to be involved in some type of investigative piece on college football that tears down a program, and particularly one that tears down Oklahoma State when it is no secret what a huge, enormous, gigantic Oklahoma homer Thayer Evans is…Let me end by saying this and I honestly mean this without malice. It wouldn’t shock me if Thayer Evans couldn’t spell cat and I say in all seriousness.”
Hyperbole aside – since Evans can undoubtedly spell cat – the shot Whitlock then took at investigative sports reporting probably didn’t go over well with ESPN’s staff of investigative reporters.
“I don’t respect the entire brand of investigative journalism that is being done here,” Whitlock said.
The latter comment seemed to flush out some of Whitlock’s former ESPN enemies.
“Obviously, Whitlock veered from ESPN’s media policy on many different levels,” the Sherman Report writes. “The network responded to quell any internal fires as much as anything else. Several of his new teammates talked about a double standard. They speculated what would happen to them if they went on the same rant. “I’d be fired,” (one ESPN) staffer said.”
“ESPN, on the other hand, did not reprimand Keith Olbermann for his attack on the Daily News’ Manish Mehta for a column — his opinion – saying that Rex Ryan’s decision to play Mark Sanchez in the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game, wherein Sanchez was injured, could cost him his job when the season ended. Olbermann never referred to Mehta by name, but featured his headshot during the program and read excerpts from his column in a mocking, condescending tone.”
Whitlock BTW was Olbermann’s guest on that very show.
Incidentally, Bottom Line Communications dug itself back up to weigh in on Whitlock’s toe stubbing and use the incident to bash Whitlock in every way imaginable, including by adding that he’d been fired by sports radio WHB.
Whitlock was lured away from WHB – not fired – by former Entercom honcho Bob Zuroweste for its then new station 610 Sports.
As awfulannouncing.com‘s Matt Yoder writes, this isn’t the first time Thayer has been criticized and Whitlock made some valid points, but…
“One area ESPN does not wish to “Embrace Debate” is with criticism of fellow media companies,” Yoder writes. “It does ESPN no good to have writers involved in fights with other outlets because it brings them down from their pedestal at the top of the sports world.”
Not to mention garnering headlines like this one on Deadspin that reads, “ESPN’s Jason Whitlock Craps on Author of SI’s Oklahoma State Story.”
The $64 million question: “Whether or not Whitlock’s outspokenness causes the relationship between columnist and company to come to a bitter end like it did the first time around,” Yoder writes.