In my post this morning about Michael Wilbon’s reaction to Tony Kornheiser’s PTI suspension, I noted an interesting question posed Wilbon by former ESPNer Dan Patrick on his radio show. Patrick wondered why Kornheiser was suspended from the ESPN PTI show for two weeks but still allowed to do his ESPN-branded radio show in DC. The same show that is still being streamed live by ESPN corporate and where Kornheiser made the comments about Hannah Storm that got him suspended.
From what I learned from sources this morning, ESPN has no contractual or legal right to remove Kornheiser from his ESPN Radio show in DC. That particular radio station is owned by NFL Redskins Owner Dan Snyder, not ESPN.
I’ve also been told that ESPN never requested to ESPN 980 that Kornheiser be removed from the show during his PTI suspension, though ESPN corporate has told Kornheiser directly that he is no longer allowed to criticize any ESPN employee for any reason on any outlet, including his DC radio show.
There’s been plenty of chatter that ESPN’s severe suspension of Kornheiser wasn’t merely about his comments regarding Storm’s wardrobe. That there were other reasons involved that ESPN didn’t make public.
As I reported last Friday, Kornheiser is currently negotiating a new contract with ESPN, so it’s reasonable to surmise that Bristol executives might be making a big stink about Kornheiser’s comments in order to gain leverage in those discussions. Especially when you consider Kornheiser had criticized Storm’s clothes multiple times in the past with no repercussions.
Storm’s contract is also up for renewal, so perhaps this so-called embarrassment about her dress might give ESPN an edge in future contract talks. Especially considering ESPN had reportedly told Storm to tone down her clothes before Kornheiser’s comment last week.
Though Bristol did publicly come to Storm’s defense after Kornheiser’s most recent remarks, where were they when Kornheiser was making his earlier, similar criticism of Storm?
ESPN reps told me today that the company would not comment about the nature of Kornheiser’s suspension beyond John Skipper’s statement.
Tony Kornheiser’s comments about Hannah Storm were entirely inappropriate. Hurtful and personal comments such as these are not acceptable and have significant consequences. Tony has been suspended from PTI for two weeks. Hannah is a respected colleague who has been an integral part of the success of our morning SportsCenter.
No connection between Skipper’s statement and the timing of the punishment, but that’s what ESPN is apparently sticking to.
Finally, for context in all of this, keep in mind that the Snyder-owned ESPN Radio station in DC dropped the Bristol-based Colin Cowherd Show for Kornheiser’s current show. I can’t imagine that development made ESPN corporate happy.
I do think now it is safe to assume there is more to the story on why Kornheiser received two weeks than what ESPN has stated publicly.