Slightly overeager to detemine the true cause of Harold Reynolds’ dismissal from ESPN yesterday, Deadspin’s Will Leitch gleefully ran 5 seperate, unattributed items claiming the former Mariners second baseman’s termination was related to a specific charge of sexual harrassment, if not a longstanding pattern of behavior.
Having succeeded in publicly smearing Reynolds, Leitch followed the matter up later in the day with an “insider” denial of the sexual harrassment allegations (supposedly, Reynolds had an off-camera “meltdown” during discussions of “Baseball Tonight”s coverage of the A-Rod saga). Far from contrite in any role he might’ve played in libeling Reynolds, Leitch added,
The longer ESPN pretends like nothing happened, like they’re a corner shop with three employees, believing this stuff can possibly remain private, the more talk there will be. Still, this is the lone “it’s not sexual harassment email” we’ve received.
So there you have it. ESPN is obliged to provide full, explicit details of just what is happening within their walls, otherwise Will Leitch’s readers might die of curiosity. 5 anonymous tips calling Harold Reynolds a serial ass-grabbber obviously carry more weight than one denial. If Leitch can just find another dozen people to say the Holocaust never happened, well, that’s good enough for me.
Of course, even if he has no conscience to speak of, Leitch is perfectly entitled to go after whatever public figures he wants — though I suspect it might be a tad tougher finding financing for a blog that openly discusses Nick Denton’s sexual history. And on that tip, let’s not kid ourselves. A cocktail party or two turns out differently and the Taco Bell Spicy Crunchwrap Supreme eating motherfucker could just as easily have been writing gags for Page 2, while some other sad sack (preferably one with a personality and not nearly as obvious a browser history) is shitting all over the Connecticut-based Disney employees.
UPDATE : Newsday’s Neil Best citing his sources as “three people who work at ESPN” reports tonight that “the cause was a pattern of sexual harassment, apparently culminating in a recent incident involving one of the network’s young production assistants.”
Sexual harassment charges are nothing new at ESPN, which operates out of a sprawling “campus” in relatively isolated Bristol, Conn., and employs many production assistants in their early 20s. The network has an extensive program of education and sensitivity regarding gender issues and an elaborate system for pursuing claims of sexual harassment.
Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, a former ESPN host, told The New York Observer in 2004 he had testified in “three or four major cases at ESPN.”
If push comes to shove, Best should be able to produce some documentation that these claims came from actual persons who work at ESPN. Unless of course, he too, is comfortable with being 80% sure.