Ron Franklin Firing Sign of ESPN Getting Serious on Gender Issues
That it cost him his job Tuesday is a sign that the Worldwide Leader truly does take the concerns of female staffers seriously, or is at least doing a better job of letting the public know that it does.
Franklin, who had been a staple of ESPN's college football and basketball coverage for 23 years, was fired Tuesday after word that he referred to Edwards as "sweet baby," then as an "a--hole" during a production meeting before a television broadcast of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta last Friday, became public Sunday in a posting on the blog Sports by Brooks.
Franklin was pulled from the radio broadcast of the Fiesta Bowl Saturday as punishment, and issued an apology Monday, but company officials apparently decided that didn't go far enough.
"Based on what occurred last Friday, we have ended our relationship with him," an ESPN statement said.
ESPN has been plagued over its 31-year history by allegations that it essentially condoned sexual harassment or worse against female producers, on-air reporters and anchors and support staff, with winks and nods, but little punishment to male offenders.
Tales of offensive behavior towards women as well as condescending remarks made by management toward female employees are painstakingly detailed in Mike Freeman's 2000 tome, "ESPN : The Uncensored History," a book that company executives privately seethe at.
To ESPN's credit, the channel has gone to great lengths to clean up the perception that it allowed an "Animal House" mentality to prevail. Just last year, for instance, Tony Kornheiser, co-host of the Emmy winning show "Pardon the Interruption," was suspended for sexist remarks he made on his Washington-area radio show about the appearance and clothing of SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm.
Franklin had been a previous offender of company policy, referring to reporter Holly Rowe as "sweetheart" on air in 2005. He was disciplined internally then, but his stock has fallen steadily, including being supplanted as the lead Saturday night college football television announcer.
The company still has a ways to go on cleaning up its culture, particularly on the radio side, where one can often hear the sound of the knuckles of hosts dragging the ground on issues relating to women in sports. But Franklin's firing reaffirms that boys shouldn't necessarily feel comfortable being boys at ESPN.