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The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Monday, April 18, 2011

ESPN enters new age of transparency

It's still odd to me that journalists could carry enough cache to earn endorsement deals, but such is your career if you work at sports juggernaut ESPN. The four-letter network, under heat in recent months because of revelations centering around their reporters' other meal tickets, announced last week it would be creating a more transparent atmosphere in relation to the moonlighting. The list debuted Monday. Some highlights:
  • Erin Andrews: Reebok
  • Chris Burandt (Who is this guy BTW?): Monster, Polaris, Slednecks, Klim, HMK, Starting Line Products, Holz Racing Products, Fox Racing, Snox, EGT, VCHK, 509, Boon Docker Performance, RSI, RPM, Sled Solutions, Better Boards, Timbersled, Sledez, Edge Products
  • Urban Meyer: Nike
  • Jalen Rose: AEG sponsored by Nike
  • Scott Van Pelt: Titleist
  • Lee Corso: Nike
  • Mike Ditka: Under Armour
  • Kirk Herbstreit: Nike
Of course there were several caveats to these deals, where ESPN takes responsibility off its shoulders.

Deadspin, ever critical of the move, composed a mash-up of ESPN personalities' endorsements, leading off with Erin Andrews' deal with Reebok, which was reportedly established AFTER she railed on Nike football cleats during bowl season.
The network said:
"ESPN’s relationship with sports fans is critical and this document focuses on protecting the integrity of that relationship. We are asking all recipients to recognize that this document will never be a finished work. The world will evolve and these guidelines will have to evolve with it."
One particular section of the document, a short and easy read for the layman (see below), seems to be in direct response to the Andrews contract, which was pre-approved by the network, but will not be renewed.
"Any endorsement related to apparel, footwear or athletic equipment used for training, playing or participating in any sport or event ESPN may cover including the companies that manufacture and distribute any such material (may be subject to review and a "strong presumption that they will not be approved."). Provided, however, that in assessing
apparel, footwear and equipment, exceptions will be granted to players, coaches and administrators who are engaged as analysts and for whom such endorsements are part of the sports coverage/reporting landscape."
ESPN also nixed any deals that may involve political endorsements, firearms, lottery or gambling.
Ironically (or not), the network's new guidelines don't even once mention the word "journalism," or ethics, but the incredibly brief outline does mention integrity once, as seen above.
Legendary newscaster Bill Bonds is the only person I can readily remember shilling products on TV outside of a newscast. He had built such a report in his time, his star shines while repping for Gardner White and Better Made potato chips. He's also been on the silver screen, making a brief appearance in a sequel to "Planet of the Apes." Bonds also has a popular mixed drink after his namesake that's quite popular in Metro Detroit.
Let's be clear about the ESPN hacks, though: Most of those people wouldn't have this side work without ESPN. It's not like your typical cops and courts reporter is going to get the chance to spot for a bail bondsman, nor should they.
How could it have taken the network this long to realize they might have an ethical quandary on their hands as thick as the barbecue sauce on "SportsCenter" host Dan Patrick in a 1990s spot for TGI Friday's.



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