Desmond Howard tells Pete Thamel "Put your big boy pants on." Desmond Howard tells Pete Thamel “Put your big boy pants on.” (Awful Announcing on Twitter.)

Threats against a broadcaster can be quite concerning for both that broadcaster and their entire network, and they’re usually treated with an abundance of caution for good reason. ESPN College GameDay panelist Desmond Howard doesn’t seem to take threats against colleague Pete Thamel too seriously, though. On Saturday’s GameDay broadcast, Thamel gave a report on what the outcome of the Ohio State Buckeyes-Michigan Wolverines game could mean for suspended Wolverines’ head coach Jim Harbaugh and NFL pursuit of him. But he did so from Michigan Stadium rather than the show’s nearby outdoor set:

Later in the show, Michigan alum Howard decided to rant about Thamel (who has taken some criticism from some Wolverines’ fans for his reporting on the Connor Stalions signstealing scandal) not being in the crowd of fans around the set the way he normally is. Here’s that clip:

Howard made it seem like Thamel was only reporting from the stadium instead to avoid fans yelling at him, telling him to “Put your big boy pants on.” Host Rece Davis noted to Howard that Thamel had received threats and “We’re just taking care of it.” But Howard then said “We’ve got security. The guys are nice out here, they’re nice fans. They’re not going to do anything.” Davis says “It only takes one, that’s all.” Howard says “He’d be okay. Put your big boy pants on.”

It’s not a good look for Howard to trivialize threats this way. ESPN personalities have certainly seen notable threats, stalking, and more over the years, including Molly Qerim, Malika Andrews, and Stephen A. Smith just this year. And we’ve seen some deranged fans break the law over college football, and these are far from the first threats even around this Michigan situation.

And Howard accusing Thamel of cowardice would be bad enough in the first place. And it would be especially bad if he did so on air without first asking off-air why Thamel wasn’t around the set. But it’s worse still for him to double down on that even after Davis told him about the threats and the rationale (and, it should be noted, this decision likely involved ESPN security, executives and/or lawyers, and wasn’t just made by Thamel).

Howard wasn’t the only person questioning Thamel’s absence from the set Saturday. Many were doing that on Twitter before the clip, including even former TSN NHL analyst and current SportsMEDIA Technology Corp business development manager Aaron Ward:

And it’s also notable that Howard’s fellow GameDay panelist Pat McAfee seemed to get in on fueling the crowd criticism of Thamel. That was notable first in the introduction to Thamel’s report, and then in the “Pete Thamel doesn’t want you to talk” discussion of Howard’s initially-muted mic.

But Howard’s remarks here stand out. He’s not a random fan on Twitter; he’s a broadcasting colleague of Thamel’s who works on the same show. His decision to blast his own colleague, and to double down on that after being told the Thamel stadium decision was about threats, was an awful look for both him and for ESPN. And while Howard’s seen plenty of criticism before (this year in particular) for his takes on his alma mater (and takes against Ohio State and other schools), this goes beyond the usual “He said controversial something about a team.” This time, he delivered remarkable criticism of a colleague, and stuck with it even after hearing the stadium situation was in response to threats.

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.