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The Meaningless Results of Adrian Wojnarowski’s Suspension and #FreeWoj

ESPN suspended Adrian Wojnarowski for emailing a “fuck you” to Missouri Senator Josh Hawley. Immediately following Outkick’s report of the decision, NBA Twitter rushed to the insider’s defense and got the #FreeWoj trending. These two reactions felt important — they were covered on Fox and Friends, the top-rated cable morning show. But were either impactful? No, neither changed anything, at all. 

ESPN’s reaction has no impact on Wojnarowski’s future, ESPN’s political direction, and the NBA’s decision to silence critics of the Communist Party of China.

Friday, hours into the madness, I explained why the NBA is fortunate. Wojnarowski’s inexcusable email took the attention away from Senator Hawley’s email. It’s a distraction from the conversation that ignited a three-day blaze: the discreditable hypocrisy of the NBA.

Hawley asked a valid question; one the NBA doesn’t have an answer for. A question that if answered truthfully, would’ve exposed a league that prides itself on social justice. Well, to those who aren’t already aware that its players use real-world issues to promote their Nike brands.

No one is talking about the NBA’s relationship with China or its marketing strategy to allow social statements on the back of jerseys, now. The attention is solely on a reporter who got involved.

Hawley is right to not be moved by the suspension or apology:

“.@ESPN don’t suspend a reporter, ask tough questions of @NBA about their pro-#China, anti-America bias,” Hawley tweeted. “Start reporting for goodness sake.”

You may think ESPN is embarrassed over the email; some employed there are. But its leaders are likely, too, relieved the attention is on a reporter, not the league it has pivoted its entire network toward. ESPN can handle backlash toward a talent, not its cherished property.  

The NBA continues to benefit from its main broadcast partner, ESPN. A network that has pledged its allegiance to come to its rescue at the most inopportune times.

ESPN is a propaganda machine for the NBA, as in state-run TV. It employs personalities who can’t be distinguished from representatives from the league’s public relations office. It’s why J.A. Adande, who was all over the NFL’s decline, gets bent out of shape when it’s reported that the league’s ratings are down (and deletes the tweet). It’s why First Take asks “how great” the league is. 

This time, the NBA wasn’t protected by an ESPN talent, it was saved.

The NBA still hasn’t answered if it will allow players to support “Free Hong Kong” on their uniforms. Avoiding the question saved them from another embarrassment and a busy week of defense from its puppets (the sports media).

Wojnarowski’s suspension has no ramifications on ESPN direction, either. The direction, if you haven’t noticed from the ratings, is programming that provides the opposite of what sports fans enjoy. This includes a new radio lineup, a social justice-themed ESPYs, declaring war on Drew Brees, irresponsible coverage of Bubba Wallace, and inking a deal with Colin Kaepernick and Jemele Hill.

Twitter users think ESPN made a statement that it won’t allow partisan behavior, anymore. That isn’t true; it has nothing to do with that. This was an out-of-line email and ESPN subsequently looked to save face. Conveniently, it came at a time absent of games and player movement. Translation: there’s no downside in this decision. 

Despite the narrative, ESPN’s response wasn’t a statement on politics. Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN’s president, made one of those a few years ago. “Fans don’t want us to cover politics,” he explained. Hmm, it appears this was forgotten when Dan Le Batard called out President Donald Trump and the company.

Wojnarowski’s suspension, instead, sent the following message: “Don’t send vulgar messages that could get screenshotted during a downtime in coverage.” 

ESPN’s personalities know this. They see it with every decision, re-signing, paycheck, and reported salary. Maria Taylor, who ESPN sees as a future face of the network — as it should, she’s great —even rushed to Wojnarowski’s defense after her employer publicly declared his actions as “unacceptable behavior.”

“I don’t care what anyone says I will always stand with, by, and, for my incredible colleague & friend @wojespn,” Taylor tweeted.

Taylor also has a photo of Barack Obama with the caption “My life has been made,” pinned to her profile. Both of these actions are a product of what ESPN has made clear it tolerates.

No, there isn’t an ESPN employee who supports a pinned photo with a Republican politician. That will stay reserved until one finally has enough and attempts to get fired.

Finally, #FreeWoj tweeters are advising Wojnarowski, who still has over a year left on his contract, to leave ESPN. There’s curiosity if the suspension fractured his relationship with the company. This isn’t a Bill Simmons situation when he was suspended. Remember, ESPN suspended Stephen A. Smith in 2014 for his comments on domestic violence. Smith has since become the face of the company and its highest-paid on-air talent. Smith made a mistake and didn’t blame ESPN for reacting accordingly; Wojnarowski shouldn’t, either.

Though Wojnarowski could start his own company and have immediate success.

For the past three days, Wojnarowski, ESPN, and Hawley have given us a surprisingly fascinating story before the return of sports. Unfortunately, though, nothing has changed.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers any news story that deserves attention but focuses on media. His interests include reading Stephen King novels, avoiding traffic on the road, and pretending to solve true-crime mysteries. He still believes Cersei should've won and encourages everyone to always question the news.

11 Comments

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  1. King James says nobody asked his opinion about the names on the backs of jersey’s. So he conveniently won’t have a jersey with ‘he obnoxious’ on the back. He tricked 285 other players to stain their reputations with bogus ‘causes’ instead of names on jersey’s. Not the Kings name.

    LBJ’s shirt will just say LeBron or James or King.

    Just give him the trophy already. It’s obvious the league is only playing this sham of games to keep the tv money and give him a legacy trophy.

    It’s the perfect milenial way of entitlement.

    • Hey Chris,
      I couldn’t believe it when I heard King James say nobody consulted him or asked what name he wanted on his jersey. So he said he’s just gonna be regular old #23 PF James, LeBron. Huh…anybody buying that? If it wasn’t so SAD it would be funny. The King is consulted on everything!!!
      Jason’s buddy, the Rev. Shannon Sharp-Tongue a while back revealed to Skip the inside skinny on the NBA season: ” If Bron says we ballin’, then we ballin’ “. So which is it…he’s the King or he’s just one of the guys? Pretty sure his purple/gold robe with the fur around the collar is still hanging in his locker.
      Rick

  2. Very well written article. The NBA has finally encountered sharper than usual resistance in Senator Hawley because Senator Hawley understands how and why the Left Wing sports media distracts the populace away from the NBA’s blatant hypocrisy with regard to China and the NBA’s phony attempts to label themselves Social Justice Warriors. Nothing but a bunch of corporate shills. They bend the knee to China for money, human rights be damned. Complete opposites of Muhammad Ali.

  3. It’s sad and disappointing what sports media has become in the present day. No honest reporting and as Bobby explained no follow up to the actual question being asked. Either it doesn’t fit their narrative or they’re scared to ask for fear of their job and connections.

    Not to mention these players are completely lost on these causes led by their wallet, fame and social media popularity. Now when you tune into the NBA you’ll see these names on their jerseys and BLM across the courts. They think they are making statements but they are actually turning fans away from a game they want to enjoy and forget about life for awhile.

    Unfortunately now fans can’t get away from the everyday world and I don’t think that’s the statement the league wants to make or more than likely they could care less because they’re laughing all the way to the bank.

  4. BLM has replaced “Support the Troops” as the issue no one is allowed to disagree with — even on legitimate substance. After 9/11, look at the near uniformity for support for the Iraq War by all politicians. You might say that the Iraq War wasn’t in support of the troops, but similarly, BLM is not completely tangential to kneeling or even having an honest “uncomfortable” conversation about race.

    Similarly to how veterans are referred to as a monolith beyond reproach, Black Americans will mostly be viewed the same way by politicians on all sides, and now this has been injected into sports. Creating more protected classes only divides this country, even in the sports arena where people of all colors and creeds stood once united supporting their terrible teams — now the “cause” matters more than the games themselves.

    • Hit the nail on the head. The cause is more important than the games. Competition In the NBA has eroded for years. Now it will be close to non-existent. Bring back the American Basketball Association, because the NBA aka CBA, is dead to me.

  5. Wow. So brave of Woj. This is like coming out against pet abuse and people thinking you are taking a courageous stand.

    This is similar to Colin Kaepernick making the politically (and economically) strategic decision to kneel for the National Anthem. He suspected that he would have a very strong political base that would stand behind him for being so audacious. I commend him for reading the political/economic situation so well.

    It was actually a type of delayed gratification that is paying off big for him now. Ironic that he should be rewarded so well for such a shrewd capitalist move. So too for Wojnarowski.

    This will give “The Woj” substantially more fame and fortune in the future (he is probably getting more “likes” and “thumbs ups” and “shares” that he couldn’t have even dreamed of a month ago). Unfortunately for him, ESPN didn’t fire him. Can you imagine how many years of play he could have gotten out of that?!

    These SJWs make their artificial heroic stands against whatever strawmen they create or exaggerated, real incidents that were taken out of context, and then take turns congratulating each other (I think we can all conjure up a more accurate but more vulgar example of what they are doing for each other). That kind of stuff is rice paper thin.

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