Co-host Hugh Douglas has been conspicuously absent from Numbers Never Lie for the first two days of this week. Normally this wouldn't be newsworthy, but given the gossip from The Big Lead and Deadspin involves a drunken Douglas threatening fellow co-host Michael Smith last week and hurling racial slurs at him that changes things.
In what is a hugely embarrassing situation for everyone involved, Douglas reportedly threatened Michael Smith at a National Association of Black Journalists in Orlando on Friday. Via The Big Lead…
"Douglas, who appears on Numbers Never Lie on ESPN with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill, was trying to get on stage where the DJ was playing, and threatened to beat up Smith if he couldn’t help out. After the third threat, Smith tried to walk away, at which point Douglas grabbed Smith’s wrist and hurled two racial epithets at him, calling him an “Uncle Tom” and a “House N—-.” Smith, the witness says, turned around to protect himself, at which point onlookers rushed in to break it up."
Could there be something more though to this confrontation? Since switching from its analytical format to a debate format, the show has lacked stability. First Smith moderated debates between Douglas and Jalen Rose as the ex-jock version of Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith. Then Rose left and Hill joined the show and suddenly Douglas was the sore thumb. Here's more background from Deadspin…
"Two people told us that Douglas was drunk. Not tipsy. Wasted. We've also been told that Douglas has felt uncomfortable ever since Hill's addition to the show a few months back. Smith and Hill, after all, are old friends, and the show was now two journalists plus an ex-jock, with some loose talk that new hire Nate Silver might have some role on the show, too. A source speculates that Douglas, outnumbered by non-jocks, felt left out."
Yikes. This is going to make for some great reading in the next edition of Those Guys Have All The Fun.
There's ugly situations that arise from time to time between people who work together that can be smoothed over and then there's situations that are just untenable. This has to fall in the latter category. Forget Numbers Never Lie, that has to be out of the equation (at least a sensible person would think), right now I have to imagine Douglas' future at ESPN is in doubt on the whole.
ESPN has held on for dear life and stood by employees against all common sense (see James, Craig) but what kind of message would it send to bring Douglas back on air after this episode? Given the sensitivity of the situation and the recent sports headlines regarding racial slurs and Douglas' ESPN future does not seem very bright.
I always wondered when ESPN's mantra of "Embrace Debate" would finally result in fisticuffs. It was only a matter of time.