Thursday, September 25, 2014

ESPN is the PR arm of the sports-industrial complex

Spiking the ball

Posted by Chris Haire on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 2:12 PM

click to enlarge The ESPN crew chats during coverage of the NFL Draft - FLICKR USER RYANLEJBAK
  • Flickr user ryanlejbak
  • The ESPN crew chats during coverage of the NFL Draft
The internet is all sex nuts today about the suspension of ESPN analyst Bill Simmons, who had the audacity to criticize NFL Commission Roger Goodell.

By and large, the media is in a fit of navel-gazing fury because ESPN gave Simmons a three-week suspension for saying what so many of us believe — namely, that Goodell has lied to the press repeatedly throughout the Ray Rice scandal. Many have also noted that the sports network previously gave ESPN talking head Stephen A. Smith a week-long suspension for noting that, well, some women deserve to get hit

Of course, none of this should surprise anyone. ESPN is not a news organization and its team of sports reporters aren't actually reporters. They're PR flaks for the sports-industrial complex.

See, ESPN's success depends on the NFL's success. In 2014 alone, the sports network has shelled out $1.9 billion dollars for the rights to broadcast NFL games. If the public turns against the league and ratings go down, then ESPN loses money. It's really that simple. And so their first instinct is to protect the NFL and engage in mindless he-said, he-said debates about which team's going to win this weekend, the Pittsburgh Rapists or the Baltimore Murderers. 

If ESPN wasn't simply the public relations arm of the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NCAA, they would have requested the Ray Rice videos themselves. Confronted with such a big story, any other news organization would have done the exact same thing. But ESPN didn't. 

And to make matters worse, it's now clear that as early as February the video was being circulated among football players. Surely, the crew at ESPN knew this, and if they did, one would have to assume that someone on staff — like say Stephen A. Smith or, hell, the mighty Chris Berman himself — had seen the video.

Media people are an innately curious lot. We crave new information. We hunger for gossip. We salivate over salacious rumors ... and then we try to get to the bottom of them. At this point, I think we have to strongly consider the possibility that not only did Roger Goodell see the second Ray Rice video but so did many folks at ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, and all the other fluff girls in the NFL harem. And then they proceeded to debate ad nauseum Goodell's initial decision to suspend Rice for two games, like two basement-dwelling fanboys engaged in Star Wars vs. Star Trek mutual masturbation. Fuck them. 

Of course, this is the sad place where we are today in sports. The cardinal sins of the past are more or less accepted. Whereas the NFL once used to crack down on performance-enhancing drugs, today's NFL players can freely use human-growth hormones and not be punished for it. Why? The NFL doesn't test for it. Meanwhile, the NCAA used to regularly penalize college teams for violations, but now a school can offer fake fucking classes and get, well, no fucking punishment at all. And that's to say nothing of the campus police coverups and bad-press slaps on the wrist that have been doled out to rapists, thugs, and general miscreants. For fuck's sake, at least act like you give a damn.

But when it all comes down to it, the real reason no one is demanding the existence of some semblance of true justice in American sports is because we, the sport-loving masses, refuse to demand accountability on the part of the NFL, the NCAA, and our alma maters.

Even worse, we often turn a blind eye to the most horrible truth about the football branch of the sports-industrial complex: It's nothing more than a vile mill that takes nearly illiterate high school athletes, forces them to participate in some bogus student-athlete charade, culls them down until only a few remain and the rest are tossed away like chaff, pushes them into a dog-and-pony show draft that feels more like a televised slave market than the end result of a successful job interview, further grinds down their bodies until those bodies are broken and no longer of any use, and releases them back into the world, physically decrepit, broke, depressed, brain damaged, and without any discernible skills to make a living. That, my friends, is the reality of the sports industrial complex.

And frankly, I'm not going to be a participant in it anymore.

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