Over the weekend, Ron Franklin, a long-time college football announcer for ESPN, was pulled from the radio broadcast of Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl for sexist comments directed at sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards.
Last Friday, in the hallway of their hotel before ESPN’s TV broadcast of the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Edwards and Franklin’s broadcast-booth partner Rod Gilmore were discussing Gilmore’s wife, who was recently elected mayor of Alameda, California. According to Edwards, Franklin joined in on the conversation and said, “Listen to me sweet baby, let me tell you something …” in a condescending tone.
Edwards then told Franklin not to address her like that. To which, according to Edwards, Franklin responded, “OK, then listen to me, asshole.”
A colleague—not Edwards, as initially reported—then reported the incident to ESPN management. According to SportsbyBrooks, with Edwards and Franklin scheduled to work the Chick-fil-A Bowl together, ESPN tried to remove Franklin, but couldn’t find a replacement in time, so Franklin and Edwards did the broadcast, reportedly without incident.
The pair was also scheduled to work Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl for ESPN Radio, but ESPN replaced Franklin with Dave LaMont. In a statement to SportsbyBrooks on Sunday, ESPN Spokesman Josh Krulewitz said:
We made a late play by play change to the Fiesta Bowl radio team.
We’re not going to get into specifics other than to say adhering to our personal conduct policies and showing respect for colleagues are of the utmost importance to our company and we take them extremely seriously.
Then yesterday, through a spokesperson, Franklin told SI.com:
I said some things I shouldn’t have, and I’m sorry. I deserved to be taken off the Fiesta Bowl.
Franklin signed a two-year contract with ESPN in July. His future with the company is unknown.
However, this isn’t his first incident with a female sideline-reporter. Back in 2005, former ESPN ombudsman (the current ombudsman may or may not be in a coma) George Solomon wrote:
On October 1, according to the Chicago Tribune, sideline reporter Holly Rowe lauded Purdue defensive coordinator Brock Spack for using all three timeouts on defense despite trailing by four touchdowns late in the game. “If the coaches are giving up,” Rowe added, “what does that say to the players?” Play-by-play commentator Ron Franklin responded: “Holly, it’s not giving up. It’s 49-21, sweetheart.” Franklin’s comment, and demeaning tone, in response to Rowe’s legitimate observation was disrespectful to the audience and to a colleague. “It was an inappropriate comment, and we’ve communicated that to Ron,” said Mo Davenport, senior coordinating producer for college football. “There’s never a reason to say something so mean-spirited. Ron apologized. We dealt with it internally.”
A number of sexual harassment incidents at ESPN were documented in Mike Freeman’s ESPN: The Uncensored History. And, presumably, it will be a major topic of James Miller’s upcoming book Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN.
However, friend of the GMPM and head of Northeastern University’s Sport in Society Program, Dan Lebowitz, told the Washington Post that ESPN is more the rule than the exception:
I hate to single out ESPN for having a dysfunctional culture. It just mimics an inherent ill in our society. It’s more a reflection of overall societal behavior where women are mistreated in the workplace. Whether it’s the investment industry or the entertainment industry or something else, it’s across the board. It just seems more sensational at ESPN because they’re a very public entity.
There’s still an awful long way to go in terms of teachable moments for men to understand proper workplace conduct and to treat women as equals.
Dan Fogarty of Sports Grid recognized ESPN for acting promptly:
Credit ESPN for moving as quickly as they could on this. As James Miller, co-author of the eagerly-anticipated ESPN book Those Guys Have All the Fun pointed out on Twitter, this situation would’ve been handled quite differently 15 years ago.
But over at Jezebel, Anna North wants ESPN to adopt a stricter policy:
They could start with a zero tolerance policy for announcers who don’t respect their female colleagues. They also need to take a serious look at the culture of sports reporting and what they can do to improve it. ESPN has screwed up in the past, but now they have an opportunity to acknowledge sexism within their ranks and actually change things. For the sake of all women in sports journalism, let’s hope they do so.
However, according to SportsbyBrooks—as of Monday afternoon—Franklin was not expected to face further punishment:
From talking to ESPN sources today, I’m getting the indication that Franklin will not be further disciplined by the network.
I’ve been told that ESPN’s attitude about the situation though could change depending on how much negative media coverage Franklin’s comments to Edwards elicit.
Suspending Franklin for one radio broadcast is a slap on the wrist. Yes, it’s great that ESPN jumped to action on this and publicly disowned Franklin’s comments, but there needs to be more than just a quick, fleeting punishment, right? As Lebowitz said, these types of comments are common in the workplace. And that makes them all too easy to ignore.
What do you guys think? Should Franklin face a larger punishment than a one-game ban? Or has he been disciplined enough? Let us know in the comments.
UPDATE: According to an Associated Press report, ESPN has fired Ron Franklin. ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys said,“Based on what occurred last Friday, we have ended our relationship with him.”
—Photo via ESPN