Why ESPN Had to Fire Anthony Federico

ESPN: The Worldwide Leader In Sports

There are few things in this world that get people riled up more than sports.  Sports can bring us together as easily as it can polarize.  For those of you that don’t follow basketball, the New York Knick’s point guard and former Harvard basketball player Jeremy Lin has been receiving widespread media coverage for his exceptional play over the last few weeks.  Recently, one headline in particular made headlines itself for its offensive nature referencing Lin (read more here).

Enough has been said about the recent headline incident, and what was behind the ESPN editor’s choice of words.  The focus here is on ESPN as an organization and its response to the unfortunate – and in my opinion, unacceptable mistake – that one of its employees made.

Over 30 years, ESPN has built a reputation as thepremier sports news organization.   It invests both financial capital and human resources into ensuring that the network’s coverage is the best in the world.  Like any top tier organization, ESPN has high standards, for which it is respected.  If ESPN is quick to throw stones at those about whom it reports (ex. fire this coach for this transgression, send this player to the minors for this mistake), then it must also be quick to react when the tables are turned, as witnessed by the dismissal of Anthony Federico, who has been with the company for 5 years and claims the headline was an “honest mistake.”  By doing so, ESPN held its employee to the same high standards it demands from the sports world.

This year's Super Bowl victory by the NY Giants led to several witty headlines (A 'Giant' Leap Forward for Manning, Extremely Lucky? Incredibly Close) - all inoffensive, unless you are a Patriots fan. Photo by Tom Hauck for ESPN.com

In all jobs, there are certain things that are grounds for firing.  It is up to a company or organization to determine what is unacceptable.  It was Federico’s job to make sure that the headline didn’t happen, but it did. Therefore, ESPN’s reaction was not an overreaction, but an appropriate reaction.

It is natural to feel sorry for Federico.  It’s always sad when people lose a job or ruin a promising career and have to start over.  But letting people go because of transgressions happens every day and it’s not national news.  It wasn’t because it was Jeremy Lin; it was because of an editor’s job performance.   When you are a multi-billion dollar organization, and your mistake causes a public relations disaster as this was, dismissal is entirely reasonable.  Even Federico has said that the move was what ESPN “had to do.”  There are consequences when you make poor decisions in life and mistakes of this magnitude; you may lose your job or the reputation that you worked to build. Thankfully, we live in a country where second chances are largely granted.  For people like Federico, if you are humble, apologetic and work hard, you can have a fresh start.

Leading up to the incident, ESPN’s focus was on Lin and his rising star.  Caps off to ESPN for sticking to its guns and standards, and here’s hoping they can move quickly from this onto sports news coverage.  This incident will pass and ESPN’s reputation will remain in tact.

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