ESPN really didn’t like being asked about employees who share similar names to those of infamous Nazis and Confederate leaders.
Back in August, I emailed ESPN asking if they would remove on-air talent that shared similar names to that of Confederate or Nazi leaders. I did this because ESPN made the decision to pull an announcer off of a game because he shared a name with Confederate general, Robert Lee. I wanted to know where would it end.
My e-mail read:
My name is David Hookstead, and I’m a reporter for The Daily Caller. I was wondering what ESPN’s policy is going forward after removing Robert Lee from a Virginia football broadcast because his name is the same as a Confederate general.OTL host Robert Ley shares the exact same name as Nazi war criminal Robert Ley, who committed suicide during the Nuremberg trials. Jon Gruden‘s name is also extremely close to that of Confederate general John MaGruder. Obviously both of these names could be a problem for some viewers.How does ESPN plan to deal with Ley and Gruden given the current situation?
A profile released Friday morning of sports pundit Clay Travis by Politico revealed that ESPN was “uncomfortable” with the very simple questions. In fact, they apparently even asked Travis to intervene on their behalf. I was never contacted by Travis or anybody else.
The politico piece reads in part:
Then there is the darker side to Travis’s rise. After the Robert Lee story was gobbled up by conservative outlets, one website badgered the network about whether it would allow Jon Gruden to announce games because his name had Nazi connotations. The outlet sent a series of aggressive requests that made one ESPN employee uncomfortable. She had known Travis for years and asked him to intervene on her behalf. Travis’s response: “That site is actually not bad.” (POLITICO is granting her anonymity because of her fear of harassment.)
Chris LaPlaca, an ESPN executive, sent Travis an angry email about the exchange, and Travis posted it online, including LaPlaca’s contact information. LaPlaca received a torrent of abuse online, some people threatening him physically. “It was like a letter to the editor so I published it,” Travis told me. He has also noted that he has received plenty of abuse, too—he moved from his old house in downtown Nashville because of it. But the difference is that Travis is now stoking those flames.
This is actually very sad for ESPN. How did I rattle them so much that they asked the biggest critic of the network to intervene and defend them? Not a great look from the “worldwide leader in sports.”
The whole e-mail exchange between ESPN and myself could have been solved with somebody from the network saying they had no intentions of pulling anybody off of the air. Instead, the sports network decided to try to give me the run around.
I can’t imagine having sunk so low that you have to ask an enemy for help because I asked a very reasonable question. That story was over a month ago, and I haven’t thought much about it ever since. However, it’s very entertaining to know that a simple question about Jon Gruden could send shockwaves through the network.