Monday, August 11, 2014

Why we hate transparency - the .@espn suspension of .@max_kellerman

Over the last few years, you've probably seen comments such as this one:

It’s not surprising that we overwhelmingly trust recommendations from people we know because we expect them to be transparent. Overall, increased trust in other forms of advertising has occurred during the past six years because advertisers understand that in a socially connected world, there are more people sharing their opinions about marketing. As a result, marketers must be more respectful and transparent with consumers.

If you believe the hype that transparency is rewarded in the market, think again.

Remember how BP's Tony Hayward was rewarded when he said those five fateful words, "I want my life back"?

Remember how TV reporter Shea Allen lost her job for saying things such as "I am better live when I have no script and no idea what I'm talking about"?

Well, late last week a new example of the dangers of transparency emerged.

Let me start by explaining that there are two ways that a journalist or commentator may choose to cover sports.

The first way is to focus on the game. People often treat sports as a release from everyday life - it's no accident that one of the most popular activities associated with sports has the word "fantasy" attached to it. Proponents of focusing on the game argue that the contest itself is paramount.

The second way is to acknowledge the outside issues that impact on the game. Proponents of this view argue that sports is not performed in a vacuum, and that issues surrounding sports are a legitimate topic for discussion. City Council zoning decisions, racial and sexual issues - all are fair game to people in this camp.

Perhaps these two views can best be contrasted by noting that Frank Gifford is the poster boy for the first view, and Howard Cosell is the poster boy for the second view. And those two shared a broadcast booth for over a decade.

Two proponents of this second view are ESPN's Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley. I've never heard their TV show, but I often hear their afternoon radio show in Los Angeles. Without fail, when some major event happens in the sports world, Kellerman and Wiley take the time to cast the event in light of broader societal currents. Issues of race, sex, class, and other "off the field" topics are often explored by the duo, who often take the time to share their personal perspectives, based upon their lifetime experiences.

Great transparency, right?

(Source: Wikipedia)

In that spirit, Kellerman offered an on-air comment a few days ago that impacted on a major story - Ray Rice's assault on his then-fiancee, and the resulting punishment by the National Football League.

On the "Mason & Ireland " show, which leads into his afternoon-drive program, Kellerman admitted to hitting his girlfriend many years ago....

On ESPN-LA, Kellerman told a story going back years when he and his then-girlfriend Erin, who now is his wife, attended a college party.

Kellerman said they both had to much too drink. He said when he tried getting things under control his then-girlfriend slapped him. Kellerman said he slapped her back. He was quick to tell listeners that the woman is now is his wife and they have been happily married for 20 years.

Some would think that this is a prime example of transparency, in which Kellerman admitted to a youthful failing. The New York Daily News account does not say whether or not Kellerman explicitly compared his experience to that of Rice, and as it turns out, ESPN is not going to be willing to provide a transcript of that particular conversation.

Industry sources said while the content of his story was disturbing, the suspension was all about Kellerman...not adhering to ESPN brass' warning concerning the Rice topic being a highly sensitive one....

While the topic became even more charged after [Stephen A.] Smith's remarks and suspension, ESPN personalities were warned to measure and consider their commentary as soon as Rice's two game suspension was handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell.

Kellerman's remarks were briefly posted on an ESPN-LA podcast but quickly pulled down and never widely circulated.

The New York Daily News claims that Kellerman was formally suspended by ESPN for his remarks. ESPN would not confirm this, merely saying, "Max Kellerman will return to ESPN-LA Radio and 'SportsNation' on Thursday."

Kellerman's suspension, if true, is actually the third recent suspension of an ESPN on-air personality, as John L. Goodman notes.

ESPN which seeks edge & controversy has now suspended Stephen A. Smith , Dan Le Batard & Max Kellerman

Could Keith Olbermann be next?
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