Fired ESPN editor: Do my actions count for nothing in judging whether my motive was racist?

A bit more evidence to support the theory that the “chink in the armor” headline was indeed an honest mistake. Could a guy who spends sizable parts of his leisure time doing good works for the poor and sick also have a racist compulsion so intense that he’d risk his job on a sub-moronic “chink” joke?

It’s possible. Likely?

Actions speak louder than words. My words may have hurt people in that moment but my actions have always helped people. If those who vilify me would take a deeper look at my life they would see that I am the exact opposite of how some are portraying me.

They would see that on the day of the incident I got a call from a friend – who happens to be homeless – and rushed to his aid. He was collapsed on the side of the road due to exposure and hunger. They would see how I picked him up and got him a hotel room and fed him. They would see I used my vacation time last year to volunteer in the orphanages of Haiti. They would see how I ‘adopted’ an elderly Alzheimer’s patient and visited him every week for a year. They would see that every winter I organize a coat drive for those less fortunate in New Haven. They would see how I raised $10,000 for a friend in need when his kids were born four months premature. They would see how I have worked in soup kitchens and convalescent homes since I was a kid. They would see my actions speak louder than my words. They would see that these acts were not done for my glory, but for God’s. They would see that each day I live and will continue to live a life of joy and service…

I wrote thousands and thousands and thousands of headlines in my five years at ESPN. There never was a problem with any of them and I was consistently praised as an employee – both personally and professionally. Two weeks prior to the incident I had my first column published on My career was taking off. Why would I throw that all away with a racist pun? This was an honest mistake.

He worked there long enough that, assuming this is all true, some of his co-workers must have known about it. Did ESPN talk to anyone around him to try to determine whether the headline was an innocent mistake or did they just pull the trapdoor to send a message to the rest of the staff not to make this same error, accidentally or not? A “zero tolerance” policy would be harsh given that this is potentially a career-ruining offense and bad faith is by no means assured. Problem is, ESPN doesn’t have a “zero tolerance” policy: Two broadcasters who used the same phrase vis-a-vis Lin survived with their jobs, one with a suspension and one with no apparent punishment at all. The distinction, presumably, is that broadcasters work extemporaneously whereas Federico had time to deliberate on his choice of words, but that doesn’t prove much about motive. It’s possible to believe that Federico simply missed the double meaning when he was writing the headline and/or that the broadcasters thought they could get away with a dumb gag by slipping that phrase into their commentary on Lin. The real distinction at play seems to be that broadcasters are less easily replaced than some random copy editor, so they got the benefit of the doubt whereas Federico was axed on the spot. Or at least that’s how it looks: Can’t wait to see whether ESPN responds to him or whether they give him The Full Brock.

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