There's no question that ESPN lost any journalistic integrity it ever had years ago. I mean seriously, when was the last time you saw Bob Ley and an Outside the Lines show. 1997? It runs Monday through Friday at 3:30pm ET. Talk about getting buried.
Yet despite the burial of actual shows that do reporting, for some strange reason the World Wide Leader seems to think it somehow still has some journalistic integrity left - even while it does things like partially own and pimp the Arena League.
Here's ESPN coordinating producer Pat Lowry from just a short time ago, "The bottom line is ESPN's journalistic integrity comes first, always."
Well, we beg to differ - and the "Who's Now" bullshit, which is basically free mass marketing for professional athletes, was the final straw. Here's a list of all the things, in no particular order, that ESPN has done lately that make it clear sports journalism is about the last thing they do. When you add it all up, it starts to look really, really bad and sometimes blatantly unethical. Feel free to add things we didn't put down in the comments.
1. ESPN, which is a minority owner of the Arena League, essentially pressures employees into wearing clothing to work to promote the Arena League.
2. Schrutebag, for no apparent reason, gets listeners of his ESPN radio show to knock down The Big Lead's Web site.
3. Schrutebag steals material from The M Zone, gives no credit to the blog.
4. ESPN goes into a partnership with Verizon Wireless for Mobile ESPN phone. Promptly hawks shitty cell phone all over Sportscenter - repeatedly. Equivalent of this would be The New York Times running a front page, picture-sized ad for some lame product - for months on end.
5. Jason Whitlock fired by ESPN because of his criticism of Scoop Jackson and Mike Lupica on The Big Lead.
6. Nov. 3, 2006 - ESPN for the first time ever runs one advertiser for its 6pm ET Sportscenter. Nike, whose ads come from the Wieden & Kennedy agency in Portland, Oregon, that also creates ESPN's ads, was the single advertiser. Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer said the idea was to exploit the "synergy" with ESPN airing Wednesday night's Wizards-Cavs game starring top Nike pitch man LeBron James by having the entire show sponsored by The LeBrons. A public outcry follows with viewers calling into question the already questionable journalistic integrity of ESPN.
7. Feb. 16, 2007 - ESPN again has one advertiser, this time for the 11pm ET Sportscenter. Sprint's Nextel brand is the advertiser, which sponsor's NASCAR's Nextel Cup season. Idea was to promote the start of the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup season.
8. June 26, 2007 - Yet again there's one advertiser for 11pm ET Sportcenter. This time it's the movie Live Free or Die Hard. Even worse, Bruce Willis appears multiple times.
9. The week Pirates of the Caribbean 3 opens, Sportscenter runs an unreal lead in for a Pirates game with scenes from the new movie. Even Steve Levy seems to wonder if this is actually legit or not as he does the lead in.
10. In case you didn't know, ESPN no longer has the rights to the NHL and the PGA, but has the rights to NASCAR and Arena Football. That might be one reason why ESPN seems to cover the Arena League a lot more than it does the NHL.
11. ESPN television ads. Although sometimes funny, there's a serious conflict of interests going on here. Former Ombudsman George Soloman
12. Bonds on Bonds TV Show. This thing was such an abortion of journalism that even ESPN staffers spoke up about it. From the NYT: "The emotional, sometimes angry debate with ESPN centers in part on whether it has put itself in an untenable journalistic position by aggressively reporting on Bonds's pursuit of Hank Aaron's career home run record while simultaneously carrying, at least through midseason, a series that provides Bonds editorial control of its content. Other serious concerns are whether ESPN is paying for access to Bonds, who is difficult to cover, and giving him hours to rehabilitate his image."
Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes called it "checkbook journalism." Wallace also said he told one ESPN executive, "You've got to be kidding," in reference to the decision to carry the program.
13. Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne, who also does work for ESPN, says the blood on Curt Schilling's sock from the 2004 playoffs is fake and actually paint. Claims to have heard this from Doug Mirabelli, who denies it entirely. Whether Mirabelli said anything or not, Thorne makes an on-air statement that had no factual basis whatsoever.
14. Steve Young calls out Daunte Culpepper on air for missing team meetings. Turns out Culpepper was in rehab. Steve had heard "from people" Culpepper was missing meetings without confirming it. Nice reporting Steve.
15. ESPN tries to bribe a star high school basketball player with airtime if he tells them before a scheduled press conference where he's going to go to college. Not necessarily 100% unethical, but extremely slimy.
16. Continual pimping of ABC shows on Monday Night Football DURING games, with interviews of actors. Usually this happens before or after games.
James Denton, one of the stars of ABC's hit show "Desperate Housewives," was featured in the booth talking with broadcasters during one game.
During the Giants-Dallas Cowboys game on Oct. 23, Emmitt Smith, was asked more questions about his footwork on "Dancing with the Stars" than he was about his playing days...while his old team was playing.
17. Skip Bayless on "First and 10" says that 50-75% of pro football players are on HGH. Former Giants kicker Jay Feely was a guest on the show and directly called out Bayless on the air saying, "That's ridiculous. It's dangerous for you to make that claim." Bayless also got called out by the Ombudsman for making an assertion about something for which he had no proof.
So there you go. I realize there are more instances, feel free to add them.