Jay Mariotti just the latest in the long, sordid litany of ESPN personalities in trouble

Sounds like the ever-overworked HR department over at ESPN has got yet another case on its hands.

Word broke this weekend that Around the Horn contributor (and Fanhouse blogger) Jay Mariotti was arrested on a domestic violence rap after an argument with this girlfriend turned heated and she ended up with scratches and bruises. Mariotti was released on a whopping $50,000 bail.

Unfortunate news, and it sounds like a bit more than a parking ticket.

I’ll be honest, I don’t read a lot of Mariotti’s work and he doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect in the sports journalism business. White Sox television voice Hawk Harrelson had it out with him a few years back and obviously Ozzie Guillen is not a great fan of Mariotti’s either. Famously, neither is Mariotti’s former colleague Roger Ebert. And they are but a few of the many who seem to share Gregg Doyel’s overwhelmingly negative opinion about “Jay the Joke“.

Unfortunately for ESPN, however, while Mariotti may be unique in the seemingly universal hatred that gets spewed in his direction, he is far from the first member of the Worldwide Leader to get himself into trouble.


One has to start questioning ESPN, which has sure seen enough of its talent land in trouble in recent years. With the army of thousands who work in Bristol, I have no idea if the percentage has reached Cincinnati Bengals levels yet; but here is a rather lengthy list of those who have landed in hot water or been pink-slipped because of something that happened while employed by ESPN:

jason-whitlockJason Whitlock

It was announced recently that the ever-edgy columnist had left his long-time gig with the Kansas City Star after an extended leave of absence.

Whitlock resigned from his online work at ESPN a few years back and later revealed that he was fired from the television side due to comments said to be made towards Mike Lupica and Scoop Jackson.

His Twitter feed says it all – ‘Black people think I’m a sellout, white people think I’m racist, I think I’m too honest…’

Whitlock continues to write for Fanhouse as well as Fox Sports, and also does radio and fills in for Jim Rome on occasion, and I have a feeling he has more projects set for the future.

Steve Phillips

Was canned from ESPN last October after reports surfaced about an affair with he and a 22-year old production assistant, which also led to his divorce. It was said that Phillips also took a leave of absence from his GM job with the Mets in 1998, also due to sexual assault allegations. Phillips now does some work for New York radio as well as satellite video and still does commentary on 2KSports MLB video game titles.

Harold Reynolds

Was terminated from ESPN in 2006 following a sexual harassment charge, allegedly for giving a co-worker a hug. Reynolds wound up suing the network and the case was settled in 2008. Reynolds has since resurfaced on the MLB Network after stints with New York Mets television and TBS.

rush-limbaughRush Limbaugh

How ESPN did not see this ending in quick disaster is beyond me.

Rush is perhaps the most polarizing figure in talk-radio history, and has brought plenty of controversy along the way, along with one of the most lucrative contracts in the history of radio. The EIB Network is great for Clear Channel affiliates, with local stations surrounding their own personalities around his show. ‘This Guy on from 8 AM to Rush’ and ‘That Guy from Rush till 6 PM.’ Limbaugh is more than a show to those stations, he’s a time of day.

Describing himself as a life-long football fan, ESPN took a chance on his name recognition, adding him to the network’s Sunday NFL pre-game coverage in 2003. That experiment ended in flames after Week 4 when Limbaugh made comments about Donovan McNabb being defended by the media because, in their mind, they collectively wanted to see an African-American succeed as a quarterback. In that pre-Twitter era, it wasn’t until 48 hours later that Limbaugh became a hot-button topic and soon after forced to resign.

A bad move from the beginning, asking Limbaugh to refrain from getting on a political soapbox is like asking Tony Siragusa to go on a diet. And McNabb?? His career body of work I say is pretty good.

Sean Salisbury

He sure had a checkered career in Bristol. He clashed with the respected John Clayton, then there was that little something about sending cell phone pictures of his penis, and a slip of the tongue explaining Peyton’s Manning’s calm during the Colts comeback against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game a few years back.

Salisbury went on to work for a radio station in Dallas, where he was then canned – leading to a lawsuit by Salisbury in an attempt to clear up the ‘carelessness’ of media stories which he contends ruined his reputation. Salisbury was last seen doing commentary for the ‘Lingerie Football League’

Mike Tirico

Today, he’s one of the most visible figures at the network and one of the most respected announcers in all of sports. But in 1992 Tirico found himself in a world of hot water stemming from the aftermath of a company party. A 2000 book chronicling the ‘unauthorized history of ESPN’ noted ‘several’ instances of sexual harassment by Tirico. After that early-career suspension, it obviously appears that Tirico has cleaned up his off-mic life.

Adrian Karsten

A staple as a sideline reporter during college football telecasts through the 1990’s into the 2000’s, the Northwestern graduate seemed to have it all, but then faced federal charges for not reporting his taxes for two years. In addition to losing the ESPN job, the legal rap also cost him his marriage.

In 2005 Karsten was scheduled to report to federal prison but did not show up. He was later found dead in his home garage, having hung himself. Sad story. After a prison stint I thought he would have been able to re-surface in another platform, as he was a talented journalist.

Bob Griese

This one I blame on ESPN, which has gone a little overboard promoting NASCAR since acquiring the property in 2007. In its first year of coverage the network even went to the length of including Brent Musberger and Suzy Kolber on its coverage. As talented as the two are covering ball sports, they were clearly out of their element in NASCAR.

Which leads to the incident in which Bob Griese made an off-color comment towards driver Juan Pablo Montoya during one of the network’s frequent on-air promos during college football presentations.

There is no middle ground in NASCAR; one either follows the sport feverishly and knows what Denny Hamlin had for breakfast, or one has zero interest whatsoever. Very few casual viewers are going to be persuaded to NASCAR as they would be by a MNF or NBA promo. All this leads to awkward moments such as the PBP guy reading a script with the graphic noting that Jimmie Johnson has a 98 point lead over Tony Stewart and a 122 point lead over Jeff Gordon with five races to go, at which point the other commentators feel like they need to make some sort of comment to at least pretend they know at least something about the sport.

Griese’s infamous reference to Montoya and tacos earned him a one-week suspension. Ironically, Montoya announced on his Twitter feed a few weeks later that he had invited his pit crew for dinner and that they had ‘Mexican’. There – Bob Griese, vindicated.

Tony Kornheiser

One of the network’s most visible personalities over the years was suspended two weeks earlier this year for comments made about SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm’s wardrobe while doing a local show in the DC market.

Dana Jacobson

The host of First Take found herself quickly in hot water for comments made during a celebrity roast for Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, apparently with a few beverages in her. In a rant directed towards Golic’s alma mater, Jacobson said ‘(screw) Notre Dame’, ‘(screw) Touchdown Jesus’, and finally ‘(screw) Jesus’ himself.

Feel free to take shots at the Golden Dome, but curse Touchdown Jesus, Jesus Jones, or even Jesus himself at you own peril.

Danyelle Sargent

Remember the kid who was pressed into duty doing a sports segment on a Ball State student newscast a few years back, and made the famous ‘Boom Goes the Dynamite’  line? Well that was a flawless performance next to a couple of Danyelle’s greatest hits.

During a segment with ESPNews in 2006, Sargent (thinking she’s off-mic) yells ‘WHAT THE
sargent(BLEEP) WAS THAT!?!’  during a highlights package. Broadcasting rule #1: always assume the mic’s live.

That would be enough YouTube infamy for one lifetime, but then came Sargent’s interview for FOX Sports with Mike Singletary moments before opening kickoff of his first game coaching the San Francisco 49ers. (This isn’t specifically ESPN-related, but is relevant nonetheless.)

Danyelle’s first question involved telling Singletary that she heard that one of the first people he called upon getting hired was his ‘mentor’ Bill Walsh. Only two problems with that: first, Singletary never worked for Walsh; and second, Danyelle never got the news flash that BW had passed on more than a year earlier. Too bad the team had already taken his initials off their helmets by then.

This is a prime example of networks looking more for eye candy than someone who actually has his/her research/facts straight.

Jemele Hill

An ESPN writer, Hill has crossed the line on a few occasions. There is nothing wrong with hating the Boston Celtics; however, saying that cheering for them would be like rooting for Hitler and also including a nuclear war reference a bit much though.

Another one of her columns last fall suggested that Green Bay Packers fans give Brett Favre the ‘Duracell Treatment’ (sorry, loss of season ticket privileges too heavy a price to throw a D Cell), and yet another likened John Calipari to Charles Manson.

Someone, quick! Stop her – before she goes too far and links Bill Belichick with Jeffrey Dahmer.

Michael Irvin

The controversies that followed Irvin off the field during his playing career continued while being a studio analyst at ESPN. Some off-color comments involving current Cowboys QB Tony Romo, as well as being pulled over with drug paraphernalia in his car, did not help neither. Each year, ESPN has an entire new batch of retired athletes (especially NFL) to audition and put on-air, which made parting ways with Irvin all that much easier.

Trev Alberts

He was actually a pretty good commentator for ESPN’s college football platforms from 2002-2004, but was let go for ‘breach of contract’ after deciding not to show up during the first weekend of the 2005 season. At issue was Alberts apparent dissatisfaction with being on the network’s ‘B’ team of commentators (Mark May/Rece Davis) rather than being in with the Chris Fowler/Kirk Herbstriet/Lee Corso action.

Post-ESPN, Alberts bounced around several assignments and is now the Athletic Director at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Jeremy Green

The son of coach Dennis Green was a contributing writer for ESPN’s Scouts Inc. before being arrested on several charges earlier this year, including possession of child porn and posession of narcotics and drug paraphernalia. The 38-year old Green was released on $750,000 and soon after a spokesman announced that Green was no longer affiliated with the company

And that’s just the best of the ESPN HR blotter. From what I hear there are many foot soldiers who get into trouble and are quietly let go behind the scenes and replaced by other foot soldiers. I wouldn’t be surprised if ESPN puts the mute button on Mariotti for good; there are plenty of outspoken reporters (and even bloggers) from throughout America to choose from.

Jerod Morris for Around the Horn?? OK, I’ll quit sucking up to the editor.

Although it is impossible to be a sports fan and completely boycott ESPN, this is why I personally tend to migrate towards other sources of sports media when possible, whether it be the Internet or other cable sports channels. Employees go off the wagon everywhere, but it seems more endemic in Bristol.

Count me among those who believe that ESPN far too often becomes the story, rather than a source reporting the story. It would be nice if they took a step back and reverted to the bread-and-butter simple love of sports that helped make the network iconic in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Jay Mariotti, and his arrest, are the perfect symbol for how far ESPN has strayed from those humble, but much more endearing, beginnings.

About Kurt Allen

Have written/blogged about sports since 2000, along with starting my popular Twitter feed in 2009. I also closely follow fantasy sports developments, along with events such as the NFL Draft.


  1. Wow…the Hall of Infamy. Not a list you want to join. ESPN has some fine talented anchors, reporters, hosts, play by play and color gameday folks and regular guests. They also have some wonderful, can't miss, informative and entertaining shows. But there are some men and women employed on air that need to go YESTERDAY. Truly unwatchable. Great compilation. One other thing. ESPN's vacation policy must mimic the French and German proclivity for time off. Their hosts are off air more that they are on.

  2. Who else should be gone?
    Mark Jackson, Jim Grey, Magic Johnson, Wilborn, and most of all, STUART SCOTT!

  3. Weren't the Cold Pizza guys accused of sexual harassment?

  4. A lot of these indiscretions seems so minor I am surprised many are even on this list. I mean a few made some crazy comments on air but that doesn't suggest they were in trouble just that they made some bone head comments.

    Follow http://www.twitter.com/datd00disit

  5. fairlyunbalancedrptr says:

    I was thinking the writer had some idea of making this relevant… just a journalistic porn for the weak.

  6. Wow thats a crazy sad story about Adrian Karsten. I always remembered his colorful analysis during college football saturdays and never heard what happened to him until reading this. Thanks

  7. I think when ESPNstarted becoming the story was when Olberman and Patrick was such a hit doing sportscenter back in the 90's. Also doing those commericals with the anchors and sports stars even thou they were funny it just become look at me not the games they covered.

  8. Greatest …. ? Just Jordan!

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  2. […] Jay Mariotti is the latest ESPN member to cause trouble… […]

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