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ESPN Reporter's F-Bomb Raises Eyebrows, Questions

Ryan Schreiber via Flickr (Creative Commons BY 2.0)

Fans of professional basketball have become accustomed to seeing a studious man named Adrian Wojnarowski present the news, good or bad, about the NBA.

Behind a pair of tortoise-shell glasses, Wojnarowski brings scoop after scoop on ESPN about the goings-on in the association, delivered in what has come to be known as Woj bombs.

Well, Woj  provided quite the Woj bomb last week in the form of an f-bomb aimed at a sitting United States senator, no less, the production of which opened a discussion about the conduct of journalists.

Here’s the background of how we got here, the Reader’s Digest version: As the NBA prepares to return to action with 22 teams competing from inside a protective bubble on Walt Disney property in Orlando, the league and the players union have negotiated what can be worn on practice and game apparel. 

Many players have expressed a desire to carry messages in support of Black Lives Matter and related ideas and the NBA, being the most progressive of sports leagues, has agreed. 

In steps Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican a third of the way through his first term. In a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Hawley took the league to task for permitting what he perceives to be anti-police messages while staying silent on the conduct of the Chinese Communist Party.

If you’ll remember, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted out support last year for protests against the Chinese crackdown of Hong Kong, a view that put the NBA’s billion-dollar business relationship with China in some peril. 

Using United States Senate stationery, Hawley called on the league to permit players to wear messages of support for police and American troops. Wojnarowski then tweeted out his two-word, seven-letter missive at the senator on his ESPN account. 

No fool he, Hawley used the Woj bomb to draw ESPN into the muck. The channel has, in recent months, tried to steer its on-air personnel out of the political and cultural wars.

The feeling from ESPN brass is a concern that some viewers might not tune into what is ostensibly a sports show for political or social discourse. Those folks might just want games.

And, even if they want commentary, those viewers might not agree with the stance that is presented.

Better to be silent and thought politically neutral than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt, or so that logic goes. 

At any rate, Wojnarowski apologized to Hawley for being disrespectful. He also apologized to his ESPN colleagues for drawing them unwittingly into the fray.

No doubt wishing for the situation to go away, ESPN issued a statement rapping Wojnarowski on the knuckles with word that the matter would be handled internally. The New York Post reported he has been suspended without pay.

From this vantage point, Wojnarowski’s pithy comment was spot-on. Josh Hawley is a preening schmo, looking to score brownie points with his base. 

Indeed, Hawley has invited ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro to Washington to discuss his feelings. Hopefully, Hawley’ll be tossed in the trash bin of history in four years.

But, in the future, Woj should keep his personal bombs, f or otherwise, private. It’s what good journalists do and Adrian Wojnarowski is among the best.   

And that’s how I see it for this week. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games…whenever they return.





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Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.