ESPN allegedly told Keith Olbermann that if he wants to keep his sports program, Olbermann, then he must no longer engage in commentary.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the condition probably stemmed from Olbermann’s outspoken monologues criticizing the way NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handled the Ray Rice domestic abuse matter against his fiancé Janay Palmer.
After a video showed Rice punching Palmer in the face and dragging her out of an elevator in an Atlantic City casino last summer, Olbermann excoriated Goodell for not adequately punishing Rice. He described the initial two-game suspension for the sordid episode as “weak, damaging and almost enabling.”
It makes sense that the NFL and ESPN keep relations smooth even if Olbermann’s criticism is justified. ESPN’s Monday Night Football deal alone is worth $15.2 billion to the NFL. The arrangement, which extends through 2021, is the most lucrative rights deal among the NFL’s TV broadcasters, which includes CBS, Fox and NBC.
ESPN responded to the Reporter article by insisting that they would never tell Olbermann what to say on his own show. “Keith Olbermann has never been told any topic is off limits for his commentary nor has continuation of it been part of any conversation about his future at the company.”
However, the reliability of that statement is suspect in light of the fact that ESPN president John Skipper told the recently-dismissed founding editor of Grantland and co-creator of the successful 30 for 30 series, Bill Simmons, he planned on renewing his contract right before he ripped it up.