ESPN fires broadcaster for sexist remarks

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

ESPN fired veteran broadcaster Ron Franklin on Tuesday, four days after Franklin called a female colleague "sweet baby" and followed that up with an expletive after the woman objected.

Franklin, 68, had worked at the sports network for nearly 24 years, primarily as a play-by-play announcer on college football and basketball games.

The network pulled Franklin off the Fiesta Bowl college football game broadcast Saturday after Franklin's encounter with sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards a day earlier.

Franklin responded testily on Friday when Edwards tried to join a conversation he was having with two other male sportscasters hours before going on the air. Franklin rebuffed Edwards, calling her "sweet baby." When Edwards replied that she didn't appreciate being addressed that way, he responded, "Okay, then, [expletive]."

In a statement Tuesday ESPN said, "Based on what occurred last Friday, we have ended our relationship with him."

Franklin, 68, is the latest ESPN personality to lose his job or face disciplinary action for behavior toward a female colleague that the network deemed inappropriate.

Baseball analyst Harold Reynolds was fired in 2006, and ESPN radio host Jason Jackson was fired in 2002 for alleged sexual harassment. Steve Phillips, another baseball analyst, lost his job in 2009 as a result of an affair with an ESPN production assistant who disclosed the relationship to Phillips's wife after he sought to break it off. In 2007, a makeup artist sued the co-hosts of the ESPN program "Cold Pizza," alleging they groped and harassed her. (The suit was thrown out.) Tony Kornheiser, co-star of the popular ESPN show "Pardon the Interruption," was suspended last year for making disparaging remarks on his local radio show about "SportsCenter" host Hannah Storm's wardrobe.

In 2005, Franklin addressed another sideline reporter, Holly Rowe, as "sweetheart" during a game. He later apologized to her. It's unclear whether he issued a similar apology to Edwards.

ESPN said Monday that "showing respect for colleagues [is] of the utmost importance to our company and we take them extremely seriously." It declined to make Franklin available for an interview.

After senior executives learned of Franklin's comments to Edwards on Friday, ESPN tried to pull Franklin off the game but couldn't find a replacement for him in time. He and Edwards worked together on the telecast that night without apparent incident. He was replaced the next night on the radio broadcast of a second college game.

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