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How Will ESPN Handle Howard Bryant's Arrest?

As ESPN continues to “gather information” regarding writer Howard Bryant’s weekend arrest, here’s an overview of what has transpired in the last 96 hours in Massachusetts and the media.

1. Media reaction.
It has been extremely muted. The polar opposite of the internet’s reaction when Jay Mariotti was arrested last summer. By my count, only two writers have chimed in on Bryant’s story – Jeff Pearlman and Jason Whitlock. [UPDATE: Author Glenn Stout has pledged his support for Bryant as well.] Perhaps everyone is waiting for the April court date, or until more facts are uncovered. Maybe everyone has ceased shooting first and asking questions later? Or maybe people just like Bryant and are giving him the benefit of the doubt … and nobody liked Mariotti?

2. This isn’t Another “Mariotti”
As details continue to emerge, and both sides keep speaking to the media, my guess is that ESPN won’t compare Mariotti to Bryant when it comes time to consider a punishment. Bryant was a full-time ESPN staffer (has been since 2007). As I understand it, Mariotti’s main gig was for the Sun-Times, and then Fanhouse, and he was always just a week-by-week “freelancer” (for lack of better word) on Around the Horn. So it was pretty easy to dump him. Still, after initial reports surfaced of the arrest, it was pretty easy to link the two. But now that Bryant’s wife is not pressing charges and disputing the eyewitness accounts, ESPN’s got a much more difficult decision since Bryant is under contract.

3. They Said, He/She Said
The biggest surprise to me is that someone in a pizza shop could see something they deemed scary enough to call the cops – the police claim to have interviewed five witnesses – and then Bryant and his wife told the Boston Herald nothing of the sort happened. A police spokesman told the Herald, “Howard Bryant was arrested, first and foremost, because evidence indicates he physically assaulted a woman. He had additional charges filed against him because he was combative with arresting officers.” Is the evidence from a nearby video camera? Witnesses? That remains unclear.

The woes of 2011 continue for ESPN.

 

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