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ESPN Suspensions: What Will Get You Suspended? A Brief and Incomplete History [UPDATES]

Bill Simmons was told to cool out on twitter for three days – why three? That’s anyone’s guess – after his comments last week about the Richard Sherman-First Take debacle. Was the move calculated by Simmons to get him back some street cred? If so, it worked – Bill Walton even brought it up during the Pac-12 tournament. Even if that wasn’t Simmons’s intent, everyone knows ESPN’s social media policy is silly, and so is the way it inconsistently doles out “punishment.” Over the last seven years, here’s a brief collection of suspensions (and non-suspensions):

Tony Kornheiser on Hannah Storm’s outfit in 2010: “Hannah Storm in a horrifying, horrifying outfit today. She’s got on red go-go boots and a catholic school plaid skirt … way too short for somebody in her 40s or maybe early 50s by now.” [She's 47.] “She’s got on her typically very, very tight shirt. She looks like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body … I know she’s very good, and I’m not supposed to be critical of ESPN people, so I won’t … but Hannah Storm … come on now! Stop! What are you doing? … She’s what I would call a Holden Caulfield fantasy at this point.” Result: TWO WEEK RADIO & TV SUSPENSION.

Jason Whitlock on Mike Lupica and the Sports Reporters, a show he regularly appeared on in 2006: “Lupica is an insecure, mean-spirited busybody. He’s upset because I put a clown suit on him on that show and in a follow-up column I wrote for ESPN. His little disingenuous overreaction to an opinion I’d stated previously on the show was staged to try to put me in a bad light. I guess no one had ever informed Mike that the E in ESPN stood for Entertainment. The Little Fella probably won’t let the producer (Joe Valerio) have me back on the show again. That’s cool. They’re mostly upset that I wouldn’t participate in their Barry Bonds witch hunt and help them single Bonds out as the creator of steroids. Lupica doesn’t like to be disagreed with, and he’s spoken so abusively to that producer for years that the producer probably doesn’t realize people are allowed to disagree with Lupica. I enjoyed my time on the show. But if the price of admission is stepping to Lupica’s drum, I’m more than happy to go without. Result: BANISHED FROM THE SHOW AND APPEARING ON ESPN.

Stephen A. Smith saying the N-Word twice on ESPN’s First Take, once in 2011, once in 2012. See video here and here. Result: NOTHING.

Rob Parker on Robert Griffin III in 2012: “I am an African-American in America. That will never change. But I don’t have to be defined by that…We always try to find similarities in life, no matter what it is so they’re going to try to put you in a box with other African-American quarterbacks – Vick, Newton, Randall Cunningham, Warren Moon…That’s the goal. Just to go out and not try to prove anybody wrong but just let your talents speak for themselves.” …. “We keep hearing this so it makes me wonder deeper about him. I’ve talked to some people in Washington D.C. My question, which is just a straight, honest question, is he a brother or is he a cornball brother … He’s not really. Okay, he’s black, but he’s not really down with the cause … He’s kind of black, but He’s not really the guy you want to hang out with. He’s off to something else … We all know he has a white fiancee. People always talk about how he’s Republican. There’s no information at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper into why he has an issue.” Result: SUSPENDED FOR 30 DAYS. BEFORE HIS SUSPENSION ENDED, ESPN LET HIS CONTRACT EXPIRE.

Max Bretos on Jeremy Lin on Sportscenter in 2012: Clearly there was no malicious intent, but he used the phrase “chink in the armor,” about a Lin weakness on the court. Result: ESPN SUSPENDED BRETOS FOR 30 DAYS.

Sean Salisbury: Showed fellow employees a camera phone shot of his penis. We unearthed the gem after two websites floated a blind item. Result: SUSPENDED FOR A WEEK.

Jesse Palmer: Made the ‘Horns down’ signal in the booth during a game last season. It was funny. Result: LATER IN THE TELECAST, HE APOLOGIZED.

Who did we miss? Drop me an email [jmcintyre@thebiglead.com] and I’ll update the list.

[UPDATES]

* Harold Reynolds, a baseball analyst, was fired in in 2006 for alleged sexual harassment. This was one of the first big stories we covered on the site. Reynolds hugged a fellow employee at a chain restaurant in Bristol.

* A reader notes Jemele Hill was suspended in 2008 (for an undetermined period of time) for a Hitler comment she made on her blog. Lou Holtz made similar comments on ESPN … no suspension.

* A reader notes Dana Jacobson was suspended for a week after a boozy, Vodka-laden speech at a roast. She allegedly used obscenities and referenced Touchdown Jesus.

* Teddy Atlas, a boxing analyst, was suspended for a week in 2008 for going after an ESPN boxing programming. director.

* Steve Phillips, a former MLB analyst, was suspended for a week in 2009 after it was revealed that he banged a production assistant and she went Fatal Attraction on him. A week after this story broke, Phillips was fired.

* Going all the way back to 1992, Mike Tirico was suspended for three months for allegedly “attempted groping and sexual solicitation of female co-workers,” according to Mike Freeman’s book on ESPN.

* Scott Van Pelt said some things about Bud Selig’s $18 million salary in 2009, and tossed the word “pimp” into the discussion and was suspended for a “period of time.

* Lee Corso dropped a loud, “ahh, fuck it” on Gameday in 2011, and ESPN made him apologize on air about 15 minutes later.

2014 UPDATES

* Stephen A. Smith was suspended for a week from ESPN for idiotic comments he made about domestic violence regarding Ray Rice.

* Bill Simmons: Three week suspension for daring management to do something to him after calling Roger Goodell a liar. If Simmons doesn’t challenge his bosses, he’s very likely not suspended, and definitely not for three weeks.

* Max Kellerman, the Sportsnation host, merely brought up domestic violence – which the network told on-air talent not to talk about. He was suspended for a couple days.

* Dan LeBatard, the radio/TV host, was suspended for two days for this billboard stunt involving LeBron.

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