What a dumb way for Colin Cowherd to go out at ESPN

My latest column for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana.

*******

I mean, incredibly dumb.

After 12 years of a highly successful tenure at ESPN, Cowherd leaves on the lowest note possible. He was taken off the air before he could deliver a true good-bye on his last show.

In case you missed it, Cowherd got in all sorts of trouble for uttering this statement Thursday:

“You don’t think a general manager can manage? Like it’s impossible? The game is too complex? I’ve never bought into that, ‘Baseball’s just too complex.’ Really? A third of the sport is from the Dominican Republic.”

Immediately, the politically-incorrect alarm sounded throughout Bristol. It gets quite a workout these days.

The ESPN PR department went to Defcon 1 in anticipation of the inevitable flak storm coming its way. Sure enough, it was considerable with Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association each condemning the remark.

ESPN didn’t waste any time. With Cowherd already out the door and headed for Fox Sports, the network said he was done at ESPN Friday. The statement read:

“Colin Cowherd’s comments over the past two days do not reflect the values of ESPN or our employees. Colin will no longer appear on ESPN.”

It was a relatively easy decision for ESPN. If the guy is leaving anyway, why does the network need to give him air time to essentially plug his next gig?

Phil Mushnick of the New York Post wrote:

“Had Cowherd instead just re-upped, he’d have been slapped with ESPN’s usual one- or two-week suspension for impolitic speech, a la Stephen A. Smith, Tony Kornheiser and Britt ‘I’m On the News, Sweetheart’ McHenry.”

ESPN, though, did let Cowherd on the air Friday morning, giving him the opportunity to explain himself. Interestingly, the ESPN.com post that said Cowherd was done at the network included a video of his quasi-mea culpa.

Cowherd tried to maintain that his quote was taken out of context. He said his larger point was that you don’t need to be a genius to play baseball. Cowherd maintained the game is infinitely easier to understand than football.

Then Cowherd offered an explanation for the Dominican Republic reference:

“For the record, I used the Dominican Republic because they furnish baseball with so many great players. But they do rank 122nd out of 144 countries in primary education according to the World Economic Forum Global Competitive Report. Nobody says everybody’s anything. And I understand when you mention a specific country, they get offended. I get it. I do. And for that, I feel bad. I do.’’

Indeed, Cowherd admitted that he was “clunky” in his phrasing. He said he shouldn’t have cited one particular country in making his point.

Do you think?

Cowherd tried to pass off his remark by saying occasionally he makes some “cringe-worthy” statements. He certainly does, but his Dominican Republic comment blows past cringe-worthy and right to flat-out stupid.

You can’t be on radio and imply that players from a certain country lack intelligence. It is stereotyping at its worst.

Yes, many Latin American players did not benefit from the quality of education that is available in the United States. However, during my days as a White Sox beat writer for the Chicago Tribune, I encountered many of them who were extremely intelligent. If you think it is easy to come to a new country where you don’t speak the language, try it some time.

Cowherd should have known better. He shouldn’t be upset if he believes his statement got taken out of context. He allowed it to happen.

It cost him the chance to go out at ESPN in a dignified way.

 

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