You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

ESPN’s Jason Collins Coverage Criticized by Ombudsman

'Outside the Lines' segment critiqued

Debate over coverage of NBA center Jason Collins’ revelation that he is gay “still resonates in ESPN conference rooms,” according to ESPN’s newly installed ombudsman in a largely critical piece.

“More than one ESPN manager told me it was ‘a learning experience’ and then couldn’t come up with what had been learned,” wrote Robert Lipsyte, the longtime New York Times columnist who this year became ESPN’s fifth ombudsman. “The tricky trifecta of religion, race and sexuality exposed not only the fault-lines (in the preparation of ESPN news series “Outside the Lines”) but the inconsistent performance of ESPN journalism in general.”

ESPN.com today published Lipsyte’s 3,300-word examination of the Collins coverage, a piece that raised such questions as “What is the distinction between a reporter and a commentator?” and “How can ESPN balance the varying sensibilities of its audience?”

A key part of the analysis was an exploration of the on-air segment which quickly put ESPN commentator Chris Broussard under fire for his comments equating homosexuality to sin. “Outside the Lines” host Steve Weissman told Lipsyte that he thought at the end of the day there had been “a respectful, intelligent and honest conversation” between Broussard and commentator LZ Granderson, but Lipsyte questioned that conclusion.

“The program was lumpy and unframed,” Lipsyte wrote. “A commentator and a reporter were put into a position of point-counterpoint. They went too far and yet not far enough. Granderson’s concept of the ‘uncomfortable conversation’ should be an aspect of ESPN’s purported mission of injecting more journalism into its coverage. But it needs to be offered in a context that explains why you need to know about drugs, sexual abuse, money for college athletes, cheating, the topics that some in the audience will consider crucial, others alienating, still others just plain buzz killers. Maybe more of an effort has to be made to place these stories beyond a 13-minute, 46- second slot on ‘OTL.'”

Overall, Lipsyte was largely critical not only of ESPN’s coverage, but of the cable giant’s own reaction to its coverage.

“The attitude, as I read it, was that these were small, regrettable, forgettable mistakes,” Lipsyte said. “No major fouls. In fact, considering ESPN’s ‘Embrace Debate’ mantra, it could have been far messier. In other words, we can move on. This was a one-off.

“You think? Or was it another example of that Jock Culture sensibility of not dwelling on an error, fine for the playing of games but not for the journalistic issues that affect our understanding and appreciation of those games. The ESPN audience was not so ready to move on. There were hundreds of emails to the ombudsman.”

Lipsyte noted that 30% of the e-mails supported Broussard’s views and another 30% supported his right to express them, while 20% said the topic of homosexuality had no business being discussed on ESPN’s air. Only approximately 20% focused on the idea that Broussard had spoken inappropriately.

Broussard, a former NYT colleague of Lipsyte, defended his performance amid the overall coverage of Collins.

“The media in general, not just ESPN, is lopsided in its coverage,” Broussard told Lipsyte. “It’s a cheerleader for the lifestyle and same-sex marriage and puts those who disagree in an unfavorable light. You can see it in the eye rolling and body language of so-called objective journalists. Born-again people are made out to be bigots and intolerant even though there are Neanderthals present on both sides.”

Said Granderson: “The conversation went too far — not too far for where it needs to go but too far for that news story. It was not necessarily a conversation for ESPN, which is not necessarily the place to examine theological differences.”

More TV

  • The Boys Amazon Prime

    Nielsen Adds Amazon Prime Video to SVOD Measurement, With Limitations

    After two years of measuring Netflix viewing, Nielsen has now added Amazon Prime Video to the mix of subscription-streaming services it tracks — and with the same set of limitations. Nielsen’s SVOD Content Ratings originally launched in October 2017 with Netflix. According to the research firm, the addition of Amazon Prime Video measurement will let [...]

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    Fox, Charter Strike New Carriage Deal

    Fox Corporation and Charter Communications, Inc. on Monday said they struck a new “long term” carriage deal for Fox’s suite of TV networks, the latest in a recent series of agreements Fox has struck with various distributors. Financial terms were not disclosed. The pact covers distribution of Fox Television Stations, Fox News Channel, Fox Business [...]

  • Mike Birbiglia Sets Third Netflix Stand-Up

    Mike Birbiglia Sets Third Netflix Stand-Up Special

    Mike Birbiglia has set a third stand-up special at Netflix. The comedian is bringing his Broadway show “Mike Birbiglia: The New One” to the streamer, with a special set to launch on Nov. 26, 2019. Filmed at the Cort Theater in Manhattan, the show sees Birbiglia blend observational and confessional comedy as he struggles with [...]

  • ‘Marcella’ Producer Buccaneer Hires Richard Tulk-Hart

    ‘Marcella’ Producer Buccaneer Hires Richard Tulk-Hart as Co-CEO (EXCLUSIVE)

    Richard Tulk-Hart will join Tony Wood as co-CEO of Buccaneer Media, the U.K.-based producer of Netflix and ITV hit series “Marcella.” Tulk-Hart is joining Buccaneer from A+E Networks, where he is managing director for international, working across distribution, formats and co-productions. Prior to A+E, Tulk-Hart worked at Fremantle, IMG, and Miramax in senior roles. He [...]

  • The Crown Season 3 Teaser

    ‘The Crown’ Season 3 Trailer Teases Rivalry Between the Queen and Princess Margaret

    Netflix has released the full trailer for season 3 of “The Crown,” and it’s clear that everything isn’t exactly going swimmingly for Olivia Colman’s Queen Elizabeth II. Set to a cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin’,” the trailer teases that this season the monarchy will have to grapple with a miner’s [...]

  • Katherine Ryan Says Boyfriend Saved Her

    Katherine Ryan Says Boyfriend Saved Her Netflix Scripts in Fight With Burglar

    London-based comedian, actor and writer Katherine Ryan says her boyfriend fought off a masked burglar and saved a laptop that contained scripts from her upcoming Netflix show, “The Duchess.” Sharing details on Instagram over the weekend, Ryan said her partner, Bobby Kootstra, tackled the intruder. “This is why I love Bobby K.,” Ryan wrote. “He [...]

  • Meghan Duchess of Sussex during a

    Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Documentary Scores International Deals

    Prince Harry and Meghan Markle open up on the stress of living in the spotlight in a candid documentary that is scoring more international deals. “Harry and Meghan: An African Journey” was broadcast Sunday on ITV in the U.K. and  will go out on ABC in the U.S. on Wednesday night. Produced by ITN Productions [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content