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19 Oct 2003

Gregg Easterbrook's Mistake

by Aaron Schatz

I've been reading Gregg Easterbrook's football column Tuesday Morning Quarterback since it first appeared on the website Slate.com.  You'll find my name on a haiku in this column from November 2001.

On Monday, in his political weblog on the website of The New Republic, Easterbrook wrote made a clearly anti-semitic comment in a post regarding Miramax's business motives in releasing the film Kill Bill.  I thought it was a really weird reference, really misplaced, and a stupid little comment. But it wasn't the main point of the post, and I figured his compatriots at TNR would straighten him out and an apology would follow.  It's not like he's Pat Buchanan or Robert Novak, saying mean things about Jews and Israel in column after column.  TNR has Leon Wieseltier and Marty Peretz to talk some sense into him.

On Tuesday, Gregg Easterbrook mentioned this website in his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column on ESPN.com.  It was a really proud day for us.  Easterbrook was the first writer for a major sports website to take notice of us (Of course, we had to write about something he said in one of his columns first.)  It brought us, by far, more traffic than we had ever gotten before.  I honestly didn't even think about the fact that this was one day after the weird Miramax column in TNR until my friend emailed me and said, "Must be a strange day for you... Easterbrook finally mentions you guys the same day he's being lambasted all around the blogosphere."

Yes, also on Tuesday, the Arizona Cardinals attendance record hit the fan, as it were.  Rather than talking about it here, I'll tell you that you can read what Roger Simon wrote or what Meryl Yourish wrote or what Glenn Reynolds wrote, or you can go on to any of the links from their sites.

On Thursday, Easterbrook posted an apology to his TNR weblog.

Tonight, apparently, Easterbrook has been fired by ESPN.com.  There will be no more Tuesday Morning Quarterback.  In fact, all of the ESPN archives of the column are gone, although you can still find the archives of pre-2002 columns at Slate.

Roger Simon writes this:

I just got off the phone with Gregg Easterbrook who emailed me that he wanted to talk. He is a warm and cordial man. He honestly solicited what I thought he should have done but I could offer him little advice. I have enough trouble deciding what I should do, but I did point out that in this world that has gone radioactive on what the Stalinists used to call "The Jewish Question" -- from the appalling UN Conference on "Human Rights" in Durban to yesterday's rehash of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" for the entire Moslem world by the Prime Minister of Malaysia -- it is incumbent on all of us to be especially alert on issues of anti-Semitism. The results of such talk have been devastating in the past and can be again.

But Easterbrook also informed me of something else that is highly disturbing. He has been fired from his job at ESPN. Gregg takes full responsibility for this (he wrote the original words that he regrets), but I, as one of his harshest critics, believe that ESPN has vastly overreacted. I urge them to reconsider their decision. I don't think anybody who attacked Easterbrook wanted to see him fired. I certainly didn't. To the degree that I am even remotely responsible for this I humbly apologize. I can only say this is another example of what we all know -- words have consequences.

Glenn Reynolds has a very good roundup of all the response around the blogosphere, as does Dan Drezner.  To put it bluntly, almost everyone criticized Easterbrook's original comment, and almost everyone criticizes ESPN for this rash move.  Obviously, you can't look at this move without connecting it to that other commentator ESPN had who also crossed-over from the world of politics, who also got fired recently (or "resigned," ha ha) due to a comment that was seen by some as racist and by others (like, say, this writer) as just plain stupid.

Listen, to say that I am not a big fan of anti-semitism is an understatement.  I go to synagogue regularly, I studied in Israel, my father is a rabbi, and my mother works for the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that was founded specifically to fight anti-semitism (and that, frankly, is super ticked off about this whole thing).  But please add my voice to the chorus of anti-anti-semites who say ESPN went a little bit overboard here.  I know that Easterbrook sometimes splices his political comments into the football analysis in TMQ.  It would have been very easy for ESPN to punish Easterbrook -- and protect themselves from something like this happening in TMQ -- by telling him they would no longer print anything in TMQ that wasn't related to football or cheerleader babes.

I don't want to turn this website into a forum for my political views, or those of any of the other Outsiders.  You come here to read objective analysis about football and to see interesting statistics and to read Scramble for the Ball and you couldn't care less if we are Democrats or Republicans, Jews or Christians or Bhuddists or C'thulu worshippers for that matter.  (Trust me, you don't want to get Benjy and me started about Talmudic-era rabbis and their kavs.)

But let me make one comment.  If Disney/ABC wants to do something about anti-semitism, about solving the problem of anti-semitism, they aren't going to do it by firing a very funny and interesting football commentator who happened to say something stupid in a completely different arena.  If Disney/ABC wants to do something about anti-semitism, perhaps they should lead their nightly news with this horrific speech from the Prime Minister of Malaysia.  That, folks, is anti-semitism.  Real anti-semitism.  Dangerous anti-semitism.  I don't watch Peter Jennings, but I'm guessing he never mentioned this one, and last time I checked Gregg Easterbrook didn't have an army behind his beliefs.

Meanwhile, I don't know if Easterbrook is going to write Tuesday Morning Quarterback anymore, but let me say this: Gregg, we can't give you any money, but we would be happy to publish Tuesday Morning Quarterback here at FootballOutsiders.com.  Just promise you'll only write about Jews and money if the Dolphins sign Jay Fiedler to a new contract.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 19 Oct 2003

1 comment, Last at 14 Sep 2007, 11:08am by Hudson


by Hudson (not verified) :: Fri, 09/14/2007 - 11:08am

Thank you, FO!!

Because none of us would ever want to be judged based on one of the dumb things we've said (and we've all said plenty, even things that came across as sexist, racist, and totally inappropriate/over the top).

I've read Gregg Easterbrook for years and don't always agree with his perspective but always find him engaging, and with significance in his writing.

FO offering TMQ would blend the best of several worlds for me, although I wouldn't clamp down on the political satire as much as I would provide Gregg with the community to weigh some of it in prior to print.