Yesterday, veteran play-by-play announcer Ron Franklin was fired by ESPN for calling sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards “sweet baby” during a production meeting before the Chick-fil-A Bowl. When Ms. Edwards objected to the remark by Mr. Franklin, he called her an “asshole”. Mr. Franklin was removed from ESPN Radio coverage for the 2011 Fiesta Bowl. Mr. Franklin subsequently apologized for his remarks, but that wasn’t enough to save his job.
This isn’t Mr. Franklin’s first incident with the use of inappropriate remarks while working at ESPN. Back in October 2005, ESPN communicated with Mr. Franklin that his on-air comment calling sideline reporter Holly Rowe “sweetheart,” was inappropriate. That matter was addressed internally by ESPN.
The Y! Sports Blog remarked, “The network should be praised for taking a stand, but the fact that it waited four days suggests that if the Franklin story had gone away quickly, he’d still have a job today.” I respectfully, disagree with the author’s position. My first recommendation would be to conduct an investigation into the alleged incident, before taking any disciplinary action against an employee. Making a knee-jerk reaction generally lands an employer in hot water later. I have no knowledge on what ESPN was doing in the days since the incident occurred on Dec. 31, 2010, but taking four days over a holiday weekend to investigate and review a matter, and then issue the discipline does not seem overly long to me.
ESPN clearly takes workplace issues seriously. Mr. Franklin is not the first employee to receive discipline from the network for inappropriate comments or demeaning behavior towards females. TV host, Tony Kornheiser was suspended last year for comments made on-air about a female anchor’s wardrobe. Baseball analysts Harold Reynolds and Steve Phillips were both fired in separate incidents for demeaning behavior toward female employees. In fact, in 1992 ESPN suspended the current “Monday Night Football” announcer Mike Tirico for harassment.
Kudos to ESPN for actually holding employees accountable for their actions and not just brushing these types of issues under the rug. If you receive a complaint of harassment from an employee, do your due diligence and give it a proper and complete investigation before taking action. Collect all the facts first, so a well-reasoned decision can be made.