Not again. Well, this time the venue wasn’t national television, but the remarks were just as vile. Worse, actually. Today, ESPN’s Dana Jacobson, co-host of the morning show “First Take,” was suspended by the network for a week because of derogatory remarks she made about Jesus at a roast for colleagues Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic (of ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning”) in Atlantic City earlier this month.
According to the The Press of Atlantic City, Jacobson made an “absolute fool of herself, swilling vodka from a Belvedere bottle, mumbling along and cursing like a sailor as Mike & Mike rested their heads in their hands in embarrassment.”
They were kind. At least one other site has offered an unfiltered version of the remarks: It notes that Jacobson reportedly trashed Notre Dame, Golic’s alma mater. No crime in that, but in the midst of her tirade the anchor reportedly said, “F–k Notre Dame,” “F–k Touchdown Jesus,” “F–k Jesus.”
Full disclosure: I worked with Jacobson for several weeks during the previous incarnation of “First Take,” “Cold Pizza.” She was smart, funny and very supportive. Like many women in the male-dominated sports media, she’d become “one of the guys,” holding her own on any sports conversation and never backing down from a good sports “fight.” I like her, so I was particularly pained when I read of her rant. As a Christian, I was incensed.
So, yes, just like the Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman, her suspension was warranted.
And it might get worse for her. The Christian Defense Coalition, has called for Jacobson to be fired. According to the Christian Newswire, the group has planned a public vigil for this Friday at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol. CDC director Rev. Patrick said this to the wire service: “Hate speech, and religious intolerance should have no place in American society. When we see these things raise their ugly head, it is critical that people of good will unite together and prayerfully stand against such bigotry and prejudice. By publicly saying, ‘F–k Jesus,’ while representing ESPN, Dana Jacobson has crossed a very well defined line. Her comments are so outrageous and inflammatory that the only proper response for ESPN is to immediately release her. A week suspension is simply not enough and sends a message that ESPN tolerates this kind of behavior and speech.”
Another organization, the controversial (and some say fringe) Catholic League has called ESPN to verify her comments. If they are correct as reported, said organization President Bill Donahue, then the penalty was “inadequate.” An earlier post on the Catholic League’s website was entitled “ESPN Anchorwoman Trashes Jesus Christ.” ““Imagine the outrage if Ms. Jacobson said, ‘F–k Mohammed,’ ‘F–k Jews,’ or ‘F–k African Americans.,’ ” said Donahue. ” Although the faith community can forgive and extend mercy to Ms. Jacobson, she still must assume full responsibility and accept the consequences for her hate-filled rhetoric.”
And we haven’t even heard a peek from Rev. Al Sharpton – yet.
It’ll be interesting to hear from those who howled that Tilghman was unfairly punished, and that she should have been protected by the first amendment. Free Speech ain’t free, as I’m sure you’ve heard many times. You can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded building, and we are all accountable for the words we utter. If you don’t believe me, go into your boss’ office and tell her what you really think.
Those of us in the media are also held to a higher standard. We fight for the right to speak freely and report freely, but we are also cognizant of every word we write and speak – at least most of us are. No single word I write is by accident, nor is it written without thought to the consequences of using it. When I am on television – even during commercial breaks – I am conscious of everything I say, whether live or on tape. (Now watch a game with me and my buddies, as we did last Sunday night, and the mouth filter is OFF!)
We are held to a higher standard because we understand the power of words – written or spoken. It is why many of us joined this profession. We do not take words for granted, no matter where we are.
Even at a roast. I understand that wherever I am publicly, I am representing not only Roy S. Johnson, but also Men’s Fitness, SportsNet New York, NBATV, as well as my family and friends. Anyone might slip, as Tilghman did, but I do my best to respect them all and mind my words.
That she was not “on the air” offers no solace for Jacobson.
In the obligatory statement to the world, she said: “I am sorry. My actions at the roast were inappropriate and in no way represent who I really am. I have personally apologized to many of the people involved. I won’t make excuses for my behavior but do hope that I can be forgiven for such a poor lack of judgment.”
She will definitely be forgiven, but will she be back on the air?
Jacobson v Tilghman: Who’s Worse? Read: Here.