As news continues to trickle down the pipeline about Comcast SportsNet Chicago reporter Susannah Collins' dismissal, the latest bit of news from the Chicago Tribune could set an ugly precedent for the future. According to the Tribune and reporter Robert Channick, a letter from Chicago Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz apparently played a role in Collins' dismissal.
"In my opinion and those of others, (the videos) are incredibly offensive to a number of audiences, going well beyond professional athletes," Wirtz said. "Had we known of this earlier, we would have raised the issue immediately."
The letter went on to ask CSN to "remove her from our broadcast immediately."
This isn't the first time tha the Blackhawks have meddled in CSN activity. Former Blackhawks reporter Josh Mora didn't have his contract renewed after he was critical about the team's management in a blog entry. A quote from Mora in the Tribune story is telling about how CSN operates.
"I think the network feels that its first responsibility is to the team," said Mora, director of sports partnerships and curriculum at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Fla. "The team is their partner, the team is their client and the reporters and anchors are just the employees. I think if there's ever a conflict between the two entities they're going to resolve it in the team's favor first."
The firing of Collins compounded with the non-renewal of Mora's contract is creating potential for an ugly situation surrounding the Blackhawks. Dan Bernstein of CBS Chicago raised the question about Bobby Hull's employment as a Blackhawks ambassador despite a past that is loaded with much more ugly tidbits than Collins' Sports Nutz videos.
The situation with Collins is nowhere near as cut and dry as the firing of Jen Patterson in 2010 after it was revealed that she was dating Nick Boynton of the Blackhawks. That's actually a potential conflict of interest as opposed to big spoonful of hypocracy, and there's also precedence after Carolyn Hughes was fired by Fox Sports West after having an affair with Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe.
But how much of an impact should teams have in personnel decisions for their flagship network? If a team spurs a network to let someone go from their job because they're not good at it (see: Beth Keener at Fox Sports South) then that's one thing, but to spur a network to fire an employee because of their past that was initially not a problem for the network or because they were being critical of the team? That's a much more murky area. If you dig deep enough, you can find skeletons in anyone's closet. and if you simply want a supply of homer announcers or writers, you might as well work on attempting to clone Hawk Harrelson.