According to four difference sources, ESPN sent out an email to the editorial side in the last 24 hours reminding them to “avoid political commentary” in the social media space. We’re told the email – which was not company-wide, but rather by department – specifically referenced the Trayvon Martin tragedy.
In the email, ESPN brass gently reminded its employees to avoid discussing Martin’s death on twitter. Martin’s hoodie was mentioned.
The reminder of the social media policy was not extended to ESPN’s TV arm, two sources said. Michael Smith and Trey Wingo are now wearing hoodies in their avatar. Trayvon Martin was wearing a hoodie when he was killed for no reason by George Zimmerman.
The question then becomes whether or not journalists should avoid such statements – and in 2012, a twitter avatar qualifies as a statement – and stay objective as opposed to being part of it.
The follow-up question, of course, could be, “within reason – say, a PG rating – can’t I say what I want in my own twitter feed?”
Richard Prince of the Maynard Institute spoke with ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz, who said, “We completely understand the strong feelings involved. Our decision is in keeping with our long-standing policy for ESPN content. There are other avenues for our people to represent issues outside of sports beyond ESPN Twitter feeds.”
[UPDATE: After some internal discussions at ESPN on the topic, this statement arrived via spokesman Josh Krulewitz: "It's a tragic situation that has led to much thoughtful discussion throughout the company. As a result, in this circumstance, we have decided to allow this particular expression of human sympathy."]