Colin Cowherd said something ignorant about a people group. This by itself is not an alarming or surprising development. Cowherd has made a career of uninformed sociological commentary that is full of lazy stereotypes and just inflammatory enough to sound outrageous without crossing over into the Hulk Hogan/Donald Sterling category. As our Dan Levy expertly explained, Cowherd has perfected the art of the straw man and walking this fine line between “routinely offending different groups of people” and “getting suspended/fired.”
Cowherd’s latest comments about MLB players from the Dominican Republic might be the furthest he’s strayed from that line though, at least in the eyes of the corporate sports world. The MLBPA was reportedly furious with Cowherd’s remarks, where he insinuated Dominican baseball players lacked intelligence, and would consider withholding cooperation with current employer ESPN and future employer Fox Sports because of it. If you missed it, here’s the video and the transcript of the worst of it:
“It’s too complex? I’ve never bought into that ‘baseball is too complex.’ Really? A third of the sport is from the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic has not been known in my lifetime as having world class academic abilities.”
On Friday, the story took another predictable turn, and then one that was more surprising.
Predictably, Cowherd went on his radio program and deflected attention away from himself by blaming Deadspin and others for taking him out of context. This victim mentality is straight out of the Cowherd blueprint in any of these controversies. He says something controversial that is charged with race/culture/ethnic/class overtones that gets people out of joint, then goes on the air the next day and tells them that they are the real problem. He then “clarifies” the comments without apologizing for them. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
The same thing happened today. Via SportsGrid:
It’s ironic that Cowherd proclaims that he isn’t the type to dig his heels in when he has gone on record as saying, “I will never back down” from nailing John Wall to the cross for that pregame dance he did that one time. Whatever.
The surprising elements here are what happened next. ESPN.com actually ran a story about the Cowherd-Dominican controversy, which is very odd. That story actually included a statement from ESPN that amounts to more or less a slap on the wrist from the network.
“Some of Colin’s comments yesterday referencing the Dominican Republic were inappropriate and do not reflect ESPN’s values of respect for all communities,” the statement said. “Colin’s on-air response today addressed the importance of making sure his opinions are fact based and responsible for all people.”
Were Cowherd’s opinions fact based when he called New Orleans the least safe major city in America? Of course not. When has fact-based opinions and responsibility ever been an emphasis for Cowherd? Again, that’s another question for another day apparently.
ESPN has traditionally been conspicuous by their silence when it comes to other outrageous remarks by Cowherd. The network has implicitly supported Cowherd when he went on one of his many racially-tinged John Wall rants, or talked about Roger Goodell being a father figure to black NFL players, or midwesterners bringing unemployment on themselves, or gloating about the death of Sean Taylor. So why would they dignify the backlash this time when Cowherd has traditionally been one of the few untouchables in Bristol? It seems that he and Skip Bayless are the only two immune to any real discipline at the network in spite of a torrent history of controversial statements, so why is this time different?
Perhaps it’s because Cowherd will be out the door soon enough… or it’s because of the pressure exerted by MLB and the MLBPA this time around. In addition to the report about the MLBPA’s anger at Cowherd, Major League Baseball released this blistering statement demanding an apology from Cowherd, even tweeting it out from their account that’s followed by over 5 million people.
“Major League Baseball condemns the remarks made by Colin Cowherd, which were inappropriate, offensive and completely inconsistent with the values of our game. Mr. Cowherd owes our players of Dominican origin, and Dominican people generally, an apology.”
My guess is that “clarification” on his radio program today was not good enough for Major League Baseball.
As we’ve explained a number of times, this kind of stereotypical, misguided, harmful sociological commentary is Cowherd’s modus operandi. Now he’s stepping into maybe his biggest controversy yet ahead of a reported high-profile move to Fox Sports, which just so happens to be MLB’s biggest media partner. This story isn’t over just yet. At some point, Cowherd’s history of incendiary rhetoric has to catch up to him, right? Then again, maybe that’s what Fox is paying him all those millions of dollars for…