The latest case of an analyst getting in trouble for tweets comes from the Big Ten Network, and it comes after the coach criticized by this tweets complained about them. On Saturday, BTN analyst Braylon Edwards went off on Twitter during a 24-17 loss to Notre Dame by his alma mater, Michigan, and on Monday, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh bashed Edwards’ tweets during a press conference. On Monday afternoon, BTN announced that Edwards has been suspended for violating their social media policy. First, here’s the most notable one of the since-deleted tweets in question:
Braylon Edwards is done with his alma mater. 😶 pic.twitter.com/B3OgQyHRNL
— theScore (@theScore) September 2, 2018
The two players specifically referenced there are quarterback Shea Patterson and center Cesar Ruiz. Here are some of the other tweets Edwards sent during that game, screenshot by a staffer at Detroit ABC affiliate WXYZ:
Via SB Nation’s Maize and Brew, here’s video of Harbaugh’s response Monday:
Harbaugh on Braylon tweet pic.twitter.com/mjYdYscvDq
— angelique (@chengelis) September 3, 2018
“First of all it’s not true, it’s not factual. There’s nobody in our program who thinks those things about any player on our team, let alone the two players he described. On the other level, it’s disappointing that a member of the Big Ten Network would choose to attack the character of two of our players, that’s disappointing.” And after that, Harbaugh went on to say that critics should target him, not the players:
Jim Harbaugh on former Braylon Edwards tweet ripping a couple of #Michigan players: "It's not true. It's not factual… If somebody wants to attack the character of anybody on our ball club, come after me."
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) September 3, 2018
Harbaugh’s response here is generally understandable, but specifically referencing Edwards’ employment with BTN is a bit strange. Harbaugh doesn’t go any further than saying just “It’s disappointing,” and the specific tweets in question here can definitely be seen as disappointing (especially if you’re the head coach at Michigan), but this sort of logic is sometimes used to argue that league network personnel shouldn’t be critical of the teams in that league, and that’s not a good approach. It’s possible to take issue with Edwards’ specific behavior here and not the wider idea of BTN analysts criticizing teams (hopefully in a more professional manner and forum), and hopefully that’s all Harbaugh is doing.
As for BTN, though, the timing of this suspension is at best unfortunate. Maybe they already planned to punish Edwards before Harbaugh complained, but the timing certainly makes it look like this was a reaction to pushback from one of their league’s highest-profile coaches. And that shouldn’t happen. Edwards probably did violate their social media policy, and he certainly didn’t present the kind of image they want their analysts to have, so it’s not that punishing him is ridiculous, but it’s definitely rough for the network’s image to hand that punishment down only after Harbaugh went after Edwards.
It’s not hard to understand where everyone involved in this is coming from. Edwards had an emotional reaction to Michigan’s struggles, and his criticisms were far from the most fervent ones seen from Michigan fans on Twitter Saturday. But the fans who went in even harder don’t have high-profile analyst roles with BTN, so it’s easy to see why Harbaugh was asked about these particular tweets and why he’s annoyed about them. The emotion from Edwards is understandable (and hey, this is a better rant than another one he was caught in the middle of 10 years ago), but he didn’t pick the best way to display it. And a suspension for him is probably reasonable from BTN.
But it’s unfortunate to see that suspension come after pushback from Harbaugh, and that will make it worth watching to see how the network’s coverage of schools like Michigan is going forward. Hopefully BTN and its analysts will continue to offer criticisms where warranted, just in a more professional manner, and hopefully the conference’s coaches won’t push back against legitimate criticisms from BTN analysts. We’ll see how that goes.