Jim Brady

Friday’s developments in the Jemele Hill saga included White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders calling ESPN “hypocritical,” ESPN president John Skipper sending an internal memo that “ESPN is not a political organization,” and ESPN public editor Jim Brady writing a column that largely defended ESPN’s reprimand for Hill, summarizing it on Twitter as “Seen through a journalistic lens, Hill’s tweets ill-advised.” What’s more interesting than Brady’s actual column is the massive backlash he took on Twitter for criticizing Hill, though.

In particular, it’s notable how Brady responded. He doubled down further on his position, saying Hill’s comments were unproveable opinion she should have avoided, and sent subsequent tweets that also took huge backlash from a lot of prominent journalists and others. And he did this for over six hours. Let’s look at some of the Twitter battles he got into:

A lot of these conversations were rejecting the use of labels in favor of “facts.” And yet, though, as some pointed out, Brady himself has used plenty of labels, such as saying “it seems clear that [ESPN] leans left” in a previous public editor column:

Brady’s defense? Saying that’s not a controversial label:

Saying the company as a whole “leans left” certainly goes against Skipper’s “not a political organization,” though, and against all the other claims ESPN has made about the company’s lack of political stance. So, that’s a controversial label in its own right, and one that provided ammunition for right-wing ESPN critics.

And that wasn’t the only controversial discussion Brady got into Friday. One particularly interesting conversation came with Huffington Post writer and author Jason Fagone, who brought up Brady’s ownership of Pennsylvania news sites Billy Penn and The Incline and asked what that meant for their journalists. Brady said he doesn’t want his journalists following Hill’s lead:

That led into a further argument with Fagone and Nashville Scene/Nashville Post writer Cari Gervin:

This is very different from previous people in the ESPN ombudsman role, who generally let their columns speak for themselves and engaged with reader feedback in mailbags, if at all. And some, the Poynter Institute in particular, were famous for never responding to certain reader feedback. (We never did get that Craig James column.)

Of course, as Brady discussed with Awful Announcing when he was hired in November 2015, he was brought in as a public editor rather than an ombudsman (after a gap without one), and social media was described as part of his role. He told AA then his role was about providing “communication and access to the readers.” Well, he certainly did that Friday, but it didn’t work out so well for him from a ratio standpoint. (Some of that is his replies to his own tweets, some is that individual replies aren’t likely to pick up many likes or retweets, but still, a lot of what Brady is arguing here took major and widespread criticism.):


As of 11:45 p.m. Eastern Friday, Brady was still actively responding to critics.

[@ESPNPublicEd on Twitter]

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.