As we wrote this morning, and many other blogs and sports media outlets have been reporting since last night, ESPN had suspended their highly respected College Football writer Bruce Feldman, after the publication of the Mike Leach autobiography Swing Your Sword which he helped Leach edit with the prior approval of ESPN executives.
After nearly a full day of body blows from much of the sports blogosphere, as well as writers such as Stewart Mandel, Dan Wetzel, and SI's Andy Staples going so far as to say that SI could replace him with Feldman, ESPN capitulates. They just released an incoherent statement claiming that Bruce Feldman has "resumed his assignments" and that there was "never any suspension" against him. Here is the full statement of tWWL’s surrender (ESPN’s servers have crashed. Thanks to SBN for putting it up on our network’s Facebook page):
"There was never any suspension or any other form of disciplinary action. We took the time to review his upcoming work assignments in light of the book to which he contributed and will manage any conflicts or other issues as needed. Bruce has resumed his assignments."
The statement is of course laughable because how can the network claim that Feldman has "resumed" his assignments if he was never disciplined. To note, Feldman was apparently childishly kept out of the ESPY awards as well. The statement reeks of someone in Bristol either realizing the shitstorm that the decision has kicked up among many of the most-plugged in sportswriters and fans, and/or ESPN's legal counsel getting word to the executives that made this decision that you cannot punish an employee for doing something that they had given permission to do, even if the result hurts their precious widdle fee fees.
What we have here is ESPN getting caught in a nationwide blog and twitter swarm and then having to cave with a three sentenced of garble which apparently took their lawyers an entire work day to draft. It is a hilarious and crazy testament to the sad state of a media empire that is completely tone-deaf and out of touch. I imagine that Feldman is going to take the classy route and be nothing but gracious to ESPN and other folks. However, at this point I hope he and his agent are exploring other options and find his way out of that Mickey Mouse operation. SBN will make perfect sense for you Bruce, as your former tWWL colleague Rob Neyer found earlier in the year.