On Monday, ESPN sent NFL insider Adam Schefter to Mississippi for an “exclusive” interview of free-agent Greg Hardy that a grand total of zero other media outlets were angling to get. It didn’t go well for Hardy. At least one other ESPN personality believes it didn’t go well for ESPN.
“I feel dirty in that this guy has no job right now, and for some reason we’ve decided as a network that we’re going to give him the stage for his redemption tour as he basically goes out and tries to find some employment,” Michelle Beadle said on Tuesday’s SportsNation. “I don’t understand why we’re doing that. If he wants to figure out a way to get his message out there — which by the way, he hasn’t said he did anything wrong, so how a man is supposed to convince anybody he’s changed and yet not admit to actually doing anything? I have no idea. But why we’re giving him the forum to go out there and tell anybody that is where I’m a little bit confused.”
It’s a valid point. ESPN knew what it was getting itself into, and the fact that Hardy came off as poorly as he did makes ESPN look bad for the attempt to prop him up. Surely, Schefter wasn’t sent to Mississippi to expose Hardy as a guy who hasn’t changed. Indeed, Schefter vouched for Hardy during a Tuesday appearance with Dan Patrick, saying that Hardy seemed to be a “changed kind of guy” during the sit-down.
“For the love of f&$@,” Beadle separately said on Twitter. “Dude doesn’t admit to wrongdoing. Dude has changed? I give the hell up.”
The only question moving forward is whether ESPN will “give the hell up” the next time a figure in the sports world is trying to leverage the four-letter platform into improving a horrendous set of self-created personal circumstances. If the person through the ensuing “exclusive” makes things worse, it’s a very bad look for ESPN.
Even if the person makes things better, it’s still a bad look for any media outlet to trade access for a clumsy attempt at manufactured redemption.