ESPN’s firing of Curt Schilling Wednesday stands out for being just that; a public firing. The network has employed plenty of people who have gotten into hot water over the years, either for their comments or for their behavior, and it’s handed down lots of suspensions and seen numerous people resign (Rush Limbaugh, Craig James), exit for other networks mid-contract (Jason Whitlock), have their contracts not renewed (Sean Salisbury, Rob Parker, Bill Simmons) or just vanish from the airwaves (Jay Mariotti), but there are only a few cases where ESPN has publicly terminated on-air talent still under contract. Here are four we were able to find, in chronological order:
Harold Reynolds (2006): Fired for sexual harassment, reported to be an “inappropriate hug” towards a PA. Now at Fox Sports and MLB Network.
Ron Franklin (2011): Fired for sexual harassment, including calling coworker Jeannine Edwards “sweet baby” and following that with an expletive.
Steve Phillips (2011): Fired for losing his credibility when an affair with a younger production assistant became public. Now at Sirius XM’s MLB Network Radio.
Hugh Douglas (2013): Fired for drunkenly threatening coworker Michael Smith with allegedly racially-charged language.
Just about every other prominent ESPN scandal hasn’t resulted in an actual firing. That makes the network’s decision to axe Schilling publicly surprising, especially considering the backlash likely to stem from it. It makes some sense that the company went this way, though, considering not just that Schilling’s anti-trans comments are so against the inclusivity they want to portray, but also that he appeared to be in open rebellion against ESPN’s policies and management. The latter is a far more significant offense than anything you can say, as Bill Simmons found out, and it seems likely that’s what led the network to take the rare step of publicly firing on-air talent.