Franklin, who worked for ESPN for almost 24 years, made the comments “in a hotel hallway, not during a production meeting,” Sports Illustrated noted. Edwards “was initially speaking to colleague Rod Gilmore about his wife’s being elected mayor of Alameda, Calif. Soon, additional ESPN colleagues joined the conversation, including Franklin. That’s when Edwards said the incident took place.”
According to USA Today, Edwards explained the conversation:
Franklin stated: “‘Listen to me sweet baby, let me tell you something . . .’ in a condescending tone.”
“When Edwards asked Franklin not to address her that way, she said Franklin replied, ‘OK, then listen to me a–hole.'”
ESPN reportedly wanted to remove Franklin from the game the night of his comments, but “couldn’t find a replacement for him in time.” However, the day after his comments, he was “pulled…off the Fiesta Bowl college football game broadcast.”
“I said some things I shouldn’t have and am sorry,” Franklin said in a statement. “I deserved to be taken off the Fiesta Bowl.”
Regarding the firing, ESPN stated: “Based on what occurred last Friday, we have ended our relationship with him.”
ESPN originally had said in a statement:
“We made a late play-by-play change to the Fiesta Bowl radio team. We’re not going to get into specifics other than to say adhering to our personal conduct policies and showing respect for colleagues are of the utmost importance to our company and we take them extremely seriously.”
Franklin called female reporter Holly Rowe “sweetheart” six years ago, but later apologized.
After the 2005 “sweetheart” comment, ESPN ombudsman George Solomon at the time reportedly commented: “Play-by-play commentators need to take sideline reporters – many of whom are women – more seriously. So does ESPN, which needs to give these reporters more airtime and more serious issues to address.”
According to the Washington Post, ESPN has had at least five situations in the past ten years for “behavior toward a female colleague that the network deemed inappropriate.”
- Harold Reynolds, fired 2006 (alleged sexual harassment)
- Jason Jackson, fired 2002 (alleged sexual harassment)
- Steve Phillips, fired 2009 (“affair with an ESPN production assistant” who told Phillips’ wife)
- Host, producers of canceled program “Cold Pizza” co-hosts, 2007, lawsuit later “thrown out” claiming “sexually charged atmosphere”
- Tony Kornheiser, suspended 2010, comments about Hannah Storm’s clothing
iMediaEthics is asking Edwards and ESPN for comment.
UPDATE 1/6/2011 7:31 PM EST: ESPN’s Josh Krulewitz responded to iMediaEthics’ e-mail inquiry that ESPN has no comment beyond the two statements reported above.
UPDATE: 1/7/2011 2:21 PM EST: Edwards clarified that she is not the person who reported Franklin’s comments — a colleague reported them. See USA Today’s report here.