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Archive for June 26, 2019

June 26, 2019 — An original ESPNer hangs up the microphone

Yesterday, it was announced that Bob Ley, who had been with ESPN for four decades and who broke ground in video sports journalism, taking over in an era when local newspapers dropped the ball on enterprise stories, was leaving the network as of this week.

Ley, in his show “Outside The Lines,” tackled such various and sundry subjects as fake autographed sports memorabilia, steroids in baseball, concussions in football, and the ongoing scandals in the governance of world soccer.

While Ley said this week that he was leaving the network on his own terms, some of his topics, and the undeniable pushback from some of his subjects, may suggest otherwise.

You see, sportswriting is what is called “the candy store” in terms of journalism. Lots of hero worship, the building up of personalities and teams, and certain coddling of the big names in the sport.

That went away, big-time, one morning in 2015 when Ley, having been provided with a copy of a meeting agenda of the FIFA meeting to elect a new president to replace the disgraced Sepp Blatter, tore it in half.

“This is FIFA, making it up as we go along,” he said.

Ley never capitulated to pressure from ESPN bosses when it came to stories which called into question the integrity of the sports the network considered “properties.” He took on the questions about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or CTE) long before some of the bizarre suicides that some NFL players committed in order to preserve their brains for post-mortem study.

The NFL, with a two billion-dollar footprint on the national sports landscape, has considerable clout, even influencing ESPN to not make another season of Playmakers, a drama which follows a fictional NFL team and its players.

I wonder if some of that clout forced Ley out of his chair.