Dan Le Batard

The ESPN airwaves got quite fiery Thursday, with some ESPN-on-ESPN crime to boot. After Dan Le Batard blasted the Lakers’ elevation of Magic Johnson to president of basketball operations on his own show, Keyshawn Johnson, LZ Granderson and Jorge Sedano discussed those comments on their ESPN LA morning radio show, with Johnson accusing Le Batard of making those comments based on race. Here’s the segment, which starts with what Le Batard said on his own ESPN Radio show and then goes into Keyshawn Johnson’s response:

Here’s a transcription of what Le Batard said on his own ESPN Radio show out of Miami:

“What you’ve got here though, is a testament to the power of fame. And a testament to the power of a modicum of charm. Because Magic Johnson is charming. But, Magic Johnson was given a late night television show, because he’s famous and charming. Failed in 11 shows. Magic Johnson was given a head coaching job of the Lakers, because he’s famous and charming, failed in 16 games. Magic Johnson, not interesting as a broadcaster, given broadcasting opportunity after broadcasting opportunity, because he’s famous and charming. And now, he gets to run the entire Lakers organization because he’s famous and charming. That’s amazing. That’s amazing. He’s a very kind man, to be in his presence is to be awash in all the things people like about celebrity, he will make you feel special, but he wasn’t good at any of those jobs I just mentioned, and he got all of those jobs, bypassing a whole lot of people who are more qualified, because he’s famous and charming.”

Johnson then goes in on Le Batard, saying “I can’t tolerate this dude! I can’t tolerate him saying these things about Magic Johnson because his facts are completely wrong! He got a talk show coming out of the NBA because they were trying a late-night talk show with African-Americans, and he’s a guy in the city of L.A. who everyone liked. The talk show business is hard! How many people fail at it?”

Johnson then says being interesting is a perfectly legitimate qualification, and one that applies to Sedano. He then says Magic’s head coaching job was never expected to be for the long haul and that he had a tough time given the roster he was working with, and then goes “Shut up, Le Batard!” Johnson then disputed Le Batard’s argument that Magic failed on NBA Countdown, saying “They moved Countdown to LA for him! And then they got him back again! And they want him again! What are you talking about? You sound stupid!”

Granderson then says “To characterize Magic Johnson’s success since retiring as simply him being smiling and charming, and totally paying no attention to his expertise, his intelligence, his ability to understand, his ability to see things in a full context and put people in place in order to be a successful businessman with a net worth of almost $800 million, you keep saying he’s getting handed these opportunities because he’s smiling and charming. This is more than just smiles and charm. He’s an intelligent, talented expert in his field. I kind of get what Dan wanted to say in terms of bypassing other people who may have been more qualified at the time, but don’t pretend the only reason Magic got those jobs is because he’s smiling and charming.”

Sedano said he somewhat agrees with Le Batard on the talk show bit, but disagrees on the coaching and broadcasting one, and then says Magic may not be traditionally qualified, but has other qualifications. He says Magic may not be the most qualified candidate to be the Lakers’ president, which Johnson disputes with “Who’s more qualified?” Sedano says “Gregg Popovich, for one, Pat Riley” and Johnson says “What makes Gregg Popovich more qualified than Magic Johnson?” Sedano says “Well, his resume, for one,” and Johnson says “Just a resume? Oh, okay. For what Jeanie Buss is looking for, to turn the organization around, Gregg Popovich is more qualified?” Sedano says “Yes, he is,” and Johnson says “I don’t think so.” Sedano then says “Well, neither of those guys are available.”

Johnson then accuses Le Batard of making these comments based on race, which Sedano disputes:

Johnson: “I’m going to read between the lines, I’m going to read between the lines on this one … To me, he saying because he’s a black dude, that’s the way I look at it …”

Sedano: “No, I know Dan, that’s not true.”

Johnson: “I don’t know him, but that’s the way I look at it.”

Sedano: “If you are insinuating that Dan is like being prejudiced here …”

Johnson: “That’s what I’m insinuating …”

Sedano: “Then I would tell you [that] you are 100% wrong.”

Keyshawn: “Well, maybe I am, maybe I am.”

Later, former Laker Mychal Thompson calls in to blast Sedano’s defense of Le Batard:

“Sedano, I’m on my way to the airport, flying out with Magic. … But anyway, Sedano, you’re pissing me off. You gotta stop defending this Le Batard, because I heard the same thing as Key and LZ, and it’s pissed me off as a black man. Let me give you some names, Sedano: guys named Elway, Kerr,  Ainge, Bird, McHale.”

“…How dare he question Magic’s credentials and qualifications, when this man is a basketball genius. What does he want, he calls him popular and charming, what does he want, to step and fetch it, does that what he thinks he is, shuffling around and not being successful at everything he accomplishes in life. That ticked me off when I heard that, I’m with you Key, that was some kind of veiled racist comment there.”

It’s worth noting that Johnson wasn’t the only ESPN colleague going after Le Batard Thursday. Michael Wilbon also went in on this on Twitter:

So yeah, plenty of ESPN colleagues aren’t happy with Le Batard’s comments here. Bristol’s often clamped down on criticism of colleagues; it will be interesting to see if they do anything about this situation.

[The Big Lead]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.