Longtime ESPN announcer Ron Franklin was pulled off ESPN’s Saturday Fiesta Bowl radio broadcast by ESPN executives after an incident involving the veteran broadcaster and ESPN-TV sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards.
Scheduled to work on the ESPN-TV broadcast of the Chick-fil-A Bowl Friday, Franklin and Edwards were part of a production meeting before the game that was also attended by ESPN announcers Ed Cunningham and Rod Gilmore. During the meeting, the subject of Gilmore’s wife Marie being elected Alameda (CA) mayor came up.
As Gilmore, Cunningham and Franklin discussed the subject, Edwards tried to join the conversation.
When she did, Franklin said to her, “Why don’t you leave this to the boys, sweetcakes.”
Edwards responded to Franklin by saying, “don’t call me sweetcakes, I don’t like being talked to like that.”
Franklin then said, “okay then, a–hole.”
After the meeting Edwards reported Franklin’s comments to ESPN management.
Once ESPN college football coordinating producer Ed Placey confirmed Franklin’s comments to Edwards with Cunningham, ESPN executives made an attempt to pull Franklin off the Chick-fil-A Bowl broadcast the same day. Because of late notice, no replacement for Franklin was found and the longtime play-by-play announcer called the game - without incident - with Cunningham and Edwards.
With Edwards and Franklin scheduled to work together the next night in Arizona, top ESPN programming executives - including Norby Williamson and Mark Gross - were involved in the decision to pull Franklin off the Fiesta Bowl radio broadcast.
Dave Lamont filled in for Franklin.
When contacted, an ESPN representative could not comment on Franklin’s current status with the company.
Franklin signed a two-year contract with ESPN last July, with the deal calling for him to work 35 events for the network per year.
For college basketball this season, Franklin is scheduled to call Wednesday and Saturday Big 12 regular telecasts.
This isn’t the first time Franklin has said something inappropriate to a female ESPN TV sideline reporter.
In 2005, then-ESPN.com ombudsman George Solomon wrote of an incident involving Franklin and Holly Rowe:
On Oct. 1, according to the Chicago Tribune, sideline reporter Holly Rowe lauded Purdue defensive coordinator Brock Spack for using all three timeouts on defense despite trailing by four touchdowns late in the game. “If the coaches are giving up,” Rowe added, “what does that say to the players?” Play-by-play commentator Ron Franklin responded: “Holly, it’s not giving up. It’s 49-21, sweetheart.”
Franklin’s comment, and demeaning tone, in response to Rowe’s legitimate observation was disrespectful to the audience and to a colleague. “It was an inappropriate comment, and we’ve communicated that to Ron,” said Mo Davenport, senior coordinating producer for college football. “There’s never a reason to say something so mean-spirited. Ron apologized. We dealt with it internally.”
Play-by-play commentators need to take sideline reporters — many of whom are women — more seriously. So does ESPN, which needs to give these reporters more airtime and more serious issues to address.
With this the second known run-in between Franklin and an female ESPN colleague, it’ll be interesting to see what the company does this time.
UPDATE: When asked about Ron Franklin’s employment status, ESPN Spokesman Josh Krulewitz said in a statement to me on Sunday:
Obviously that gives us no indication of Franklin’s status with the company but Krulewitz’s comment does seem to acknowledge that something inappropriate involving Franklin took place.
“We made a late play by play change to the fiesta bowl radio team.
“We’re not going to get into specifics other than to say adhering to our personal conduct policies and showing respect for colleagues are of the utmost importance to our company and we take them extremely seriously.”