College GameDay’s long been known for showing off the signs fans bring, but one of those signs is bringing some heat onto ESPN. At Saturday’s GameDay in Tuscaloosa, an Alabama fan held up a sign stating “Ole Miss Girls Are Easier Than Their Out-Of-Conference Schedule.” Offensive signs aren’t exactly unknown at GameDay, but it’s rare for them to be promoted the way this one was; ESPN not only showed it on air, but also featured it in a tweet from the @CollegeGameDay account:
That sparked plenty of pretty intense criticism:
@CollegeGameDay Hi this is gross and misogynistic and not even original so do you maybe have a better sign to show me?
— #SarahKeltoKC? (@thesarahkelly) September 19, 2015
Ha ha I get it because women are lower than men and sexuality is only for men and rape is funny very cool very cool @CollegeGameDay
— THE LEGO BRO DUDE (@ironghazi) September 19, 2015
@CollegeGameDay Utterly classless and embarrassing to feature this sign. What does this say about your brand? Integrity? Views on women?
— Emily Wright (@EmilyCello) September 19, 2015
When the sign was shown on-air, host Rece Davis and analyst Kirk Herbstreit condemned it, with Davis saying “I can’t condone that type of behavior” and Herbstreit adding “That is unacceptable.” However, ESPN still made the choice to show it, and ESPN spokesperson Keri Potts told CNN they wouldn’t be deleting the tweet promoting it either, saying “Our Twitter handle looks to bring the sights and sounds of the College GameDay experience to the viewer at home and reflect how the fans on site express themselves.”
That’s all well and good as an attempt to disassociate themselves from this, but it should be noted that ESPN does exercise editorial control on what signs are allowed near their set, what signs they show on air, and especially on what signs they elect to tweet out. They didn’t make this sign, but they did promote it to the world, and they’ve kept promoting it to the world by leaving it up despite the backlash. Thus, criticism of ESPN by those who have issues with the sign seems rather fair from this corner.