Adrian Wojnarowski was almost certainly going to be penalized by ESPN for his response to Missouri senator Josh Hawley, which the politician publicized on Twitter Friday. Late Saturday night, as first reported by Outkick’s Ryan Glasspiegel, the network suspended its NBA insider for an unannounced length of time.
According to the Washington Post‘s Ben Strauss, Wojnarowski is likely to be suspended for one to two weeks.
UPDATE: Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported Sunday night that Wojnarowski will be suspended for two weeks. When exactly the suspension begins isn’t clear, but Marchand says Woj is expected to be back by July 15. That likely means the suspension began yesterday (July 11). Woj also won’t be allowed to tweet any news during that time.
But a suspension seemed extremely likely after Wojnarowski profanely replied to a press release from Hawley’s office, publicizing a letter that the Senator sent to NBA commissioner Adam Silver regarding the league allowing players to wear social justice messages on their jerseys.
Had Wojnarowski replied less provocatively (or profanely), or not responded at all, Hawley almost certainly wouldn’t have mentioned it on social media. But he responded to Hawley’s press release with an email that said “Fuck you.”
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) July 10, 2020
Regardless of which side of this you’re on, whether you think Woj’s response was justified or you endorse Hawley’s stance on social justice messages supporting law enforcement, military or Hong Kong protests against China, sending that kind of message was undoubtedly unprofessional. Whether he said “Fuck you” to a reader, viewer, fellow reporter, player, executive, or United States Senator, ESPN had to act here.
(Hawley also knew what he was doing by tagging Outkick in his tweet publicizing Wojnarowski’s reply. This plays right into the site’s narrative that sports media is fueled by left-wing politics and dislikes viewpoints on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Under network president Jimmy Pitaro’s management, ESPN has spent the past two-plus years working against the notion that too much politics was mixed in with its sports reporting and commentary.)
Following Hawley making Wojnarowski’s email public, ESPN issued a statement rebuking the reporter’s behavior. Soon thereafter, Wojnarowski issued an apology for his remarks to his network colleagues and said he would contact the Senator to apologize directly.
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) July 10, 2020
As of this writing, ESPN hasn’t issued an official statement or announcement regarding Wojnarowski’s suspension. Whether the network attempts to do so quietly on a Sunday or more publicly on Monday remains to be seen. Regardless, it will be a while before Wojnarowski appears on television, ESPN’s website, and probably social media, and that will need to be addressed.
In the meantime, Wojnarowski is drawing support from fans and NBA players on Twitter, represented by the #FreeWoj hashtag.
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) July 12, 2020
Till it’s backwards ???? https://t.co/AwP0IqUHW6
— Patrick Beverley (@patbev21) July 12, 2020
— Stephen A. Smith Burner (@SASBurnerAcct) July 12, 2020
— Myles Turner (@Original_Turner) July 12, 2020
UPDATE: LeBron has tweeted his support of Wojnarowski as well.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 12, 2020
Wojnarowski’s suspension doesn’t come at an ideal time for ESPN’s top NBA reporter as the league prepares to return to complete its 2019-2020 season under a “bubble” circumstance in Orlando. 22 teams are currently in quarantine at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex with the season set to restart on July 30.
Though he won’t be reporting on any COVID-19 developments in the NBA bubble or other league business over the next one to two weeks, Wojnarowski will surely be back on the job shortly before the revamped season tips off.