Thursday, July 3, 2008

ESPN's Delicate Balance


It is going to be a very interesting Friday night for the ESPN gang in Daytona.

Following the action on the track for the 8PM Nationwide Series race will not be a problem. Handling the action off the track might be a different story.

It was ESPN's Outside the Lines and the ESPNEWS Network that Thursday first showed Mauricia Grant to the world on television. The same network that paid for exclusive rights to broadcast the Nationwide Series later used a rain delay in the afternoon to almost painfully play "the soundbite" for NASCAR fans.

Viewers who had tuned-in expecting to see Marcos Ambrose and company practicing instead heard references to male organs and the "N word." As NASCAR TV goes, it was quite a moment.

Now, with Grant's words and face in rotation on ESPNEWS, a whole lot of sports fans are going to be exposed to a very different view of NASCAR than they get from race highlights and winner interviews.

The challenge for ESPN is to package this issue respectfully into the one hour NASCAR Countdown show that starts at 7PM. Hosted by Allen Bestwick, this program has been outstanding for the network this season. Bestwick has handled a lot of delicate topics, and this should be one he organizes well before air time.

Here is what ESPNEWS was running on Thursday, complete with a professional approach and a very good script. Former Morning Express with Robin Meade sports anchor Will Selva handled this introduction and once again ESPNEWS came away looking good.

This post is going to serve to handle your comments specifically about Grant's interview on Outside The Lines, ESPNEWS and the video on the ESPN.com website. Put your comments in a TV or media-related perspective please, or they will be deleted.

What was your reaction to this video and how did you think ESPN handled the issue on Thursday?

There will be a new post up for comments about NASCAR Countdown and the Nationwide Series race at 6PM on Friday.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info, JD. Do you have any idea when the full episode of Outside the Lines will be playing? The video you linked and the late night NASCAR Now a few minutes ago were showing different parts of the same OTL interview and I would like to see the entire interview when it airs, I missed the beginning of the NASCAR Now part.

My cable schedule shows an Outside the Lines episode an hour before NASCAR Countdown on ESPN2 Friday, but I'm not sure if the interview will air then or if they will wait for the Sunday morning OTL, which I would guess gets the most viewers.

It looked like a very good interview, it held my interest and made me want to see the entire program. My gut feeling is that Mauricia Grant seemed sincere, but of course we will have to wait to hear what a jury says if it gets that far, or what other information comes out.

I think it helps her case to be on TV. In the comparisons to the Duke lacrosse case, we never heard from the alleged victim who turned out to be a false accuser. If Miss Grant presents herself well, which I think she did (how old is she, she looks very young) it presents a more human face, not just a name, which makes it harder for NASCAR to combat the claims.

FYI, the cable guide also said Greg Biffle is a guest on First Take tomorrow. When this news first came out, Greg was the driver who Marty Smith said didn't see any problems in the NASCAR garage and Greg didn't think there were issues like the ones in the lawsuit. He was one of the few drivers to say anything. I wonder if First Take would ask him to comment?

I think it's funny that all the regular NASCAR people we see on TV are not connected with this story and flat-out won't touch it except to read scripted statements. I think of Jim Gray or Craig Sager from the NBA - whether you like them or not, you know they'd punch somebody if they suggested somebody else report a story that involved the sport they are on TV to talk about. That's their job, they do it well, and they deal with those players every day. So the players can't hide if they report something negative about them or ask them tough questions.

But apparently NASCAR TV is different from other sports TV when it comes to news. NASCAR TV outsources the heavy duty coverage instead of doing it themselves!

SophiaZ123 said...

It is pitifuls Powers that Be for the most part stick their head in the sands about this case except for the bungling a few weeks ago from "Sonny Drysdale" Brian France.

FWIW, I have no idea of the allegations being true, but I also found Ms. Grant believable in the few minutes I saw her interviewed.

I think the worst thing she has going against her is an attorney that asked for astronomical dollars. Please don't give me that baloney it's only 'on paper.' I know DEATH LAWSUITS that have sued for less so in the grand scheme of things, the dollar tally is getting a lot of attention.

NONE Of my friends have heard a peep about this in the mass medai.

Maybe things will change but I doubt it.

NASCAR wants to believe nobody does drugs, the COT is safe and exciting racing, ratings and attendence is up and ALL IS WELL with the sport.

May the truth win out in this lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this should go on the other thread since it wasn't mentioned in yesterday's clip. Then again, NASCAR's statement about zero tolerance of harassment was read during practice, so maybe it fits.

What I remember from all this hoopla is Brian France's television press conference saying everybody in NASCAR has his email address and this official could have contacted him with the allegations and he would have taken care of it.

How many employees of a very large corporation and who have layers of supervisors above them - and a human resources department - are going to jump multi levels and go directly to the billionaire owner and CEO with a problem? And send an email:

"Dear Sir,
I am being harassed by several of my fellow officials. Here is what happened. Will you please take care of it?"

Think about it. The idea is ridiculous. Because of legal issues, would a CEO these days even acknowledge, respond to, or keep that email? I doubt it. It would go straight to the legal department, if it wasn't deleted outright.

A normal employee, and a relatively new one at that, is going to go through the channels he/she is told to go through, not directly to the top person in charge simply because she can get his email address out of a company directory. Appears the Nationwide official followed standard employee procedure and shouldn't be shot down for it.

SallyB said...

I was very impressed with Ms. Grant's interview. She was certainly more impressive than the interview Brian France gave about the issue. His protestations of "I didn't know what was going on" reminded me of the line "I was just following orders". Maybe, if he spent more time at the race track in the garage seeing first hand what is going on, he might have seemed more accessable fo Ms. Grant. In light of the fact that 2 of those named in the suit have been suspended and another one fired, it gives the appearance that there was at least some merit to the allegations.

Ritchie said...

All I can say after seeing that video is "wow". If that girl is lying, she deserves an academy award. She came across in the video as completly credible. In fact, she looked and sounded like a young lady who went through an ordeal.

NASCAR is in trouble. If she gets on a more hostile program like 60 Minutes, nobody is going to take NASCAR's side. They had better start spinning the story better than they are now.

If you take that short video clip, and compare it to Mr. France saying "she should have complained louder and to more people" you have to ask yourself what is he thinking?

To be perfectly honest, after seeing that video, if only half the things she said are true then she deserves the money and NASCAR needs to clean house immediately.

Daly Planet Editor said...

sallyb,

Thank you so much for finally making the point I have been bringing up over and over again.

When the accuser looks and sounds more professional than the Chairman of the company being sued...not good.

JD

Newracefan said...

I just watched the NN interview and to was impressed with Ms Grant. She is well spoken, concise and very believable, Nascar is in trouble. Their statement to NN is somewhat appropriate but my thought is the while they have a zero tolerance policy they obviously didn't do a good job on harassment training on what is appropriate behavior and how to file a complaint. Nascar's only public (good old BF in a wrinkled shirt) defense is that she didn't tell the right people perhaps they didn't tell anyone who the right perople were. When this gets into the mainstream I may have trouble defending my support of this sport. We was discussing this mess with another couple they admitted this same behavior minus the racial component use to occur where they worked but she wasn't offended (it included penis exposure too and was many many years ago). Perhaps the officials really thought what they were doing was acceptable (again did Nascar do training on appropriate behavior I know my company does and at least every 1-2 years). I also know of someone who was fired as a manager because the assistant manager was harassing the waitresses when he was off but because he was the manager he was responsible even when he wasn't there. That company obviously had a policy and the staff knew where to direct their complaint. Nascar really needs to take the bull by the horns, internally (by admitting and dealing with the problem), apologize to Ms Grant and pay her a lot before this destroys Nascar.

Anonymous said...

Honestly JD. The suspense you build is not needed. Its a race at Daytona. The lawsuit really should not be an issue on Friday night. I am sick and tired of hearing about it. I go on here for TV news and all I find is stuff about the lawsuit. Give it up until some new stuff comes out.

Anonymous said...

After watching the interview alot of things still don't make sense to me. Something isn't adding up. Im not ready to jump on the Ms. Grant bandwagon. Watching the interview made me see how much things jsut don't add up.

dwight said...

I watched with interest the portion of the interview with Ms. Grant which was carried on Sports Center last night. Ms. Grant appears to be intelligent, articulate, grammatical. She makes a good appearance and handled herself well. I would expect her to give a good deposition.

As Doug Guthrie wrote at info.detnews.com/redesign/blogs/racingblog/index.cfm?blogid=343, “Trouble is, no matter how many people you get to say, 'Oh, she went along with the jokes,' this behavior, if true, still is against the law.” (sorry this isn't a link, but they aren't allowed/accepted)

This isn't going to go away for a long time unless it gets settled. The certain major news cycle moments will include, when Answers are filed, when depositions are taken, when and if NASCAR files a motion for Summary Judgment, and when that opinion is announced. If NASCAR loses that motion then the problems just ratchet up. This process will stretch out for at least a year or two, so this is an open wound which will fester for a long time.

It seems to me that the professional credibility of the members of the press who cover NASCAR suffers when they continue to ignore this story.

gwsp3 said...

I have been a fan for 50+ years. In all that time I have not seen NASCAR even close to the mess it is in today. While Bill France, Jr. did many things right, it is obvious that one of the last things he did was very, very wrong. To me, the Grant situation is just another example of what is occurring in NASCAR due to very inept management. This young lady is very believable and God help NASCAR if Brian France is NASCAR's only defense. I do not believe the NASCAR propaganda machine is going to be able to sweep this one under the rug as they did young Mr. France's spilled Coca Cola. Someone mentioned that maybe the officials thought what they were doing was acceptable because they were not properly trained. Anyone living in today's society knows that kind of behavior is unacceptable in any situation. Brian France is going to ruin the sport his Father and Grandfather worked so hard to build.

Anonymous said...

'Thanks for the info, JD. Do you have any idea when the full episode of Outside the Lines will be playing?'



I have this same question. Any answers?

Newracefan said...

Someone mentioned that maybe the officials thought what they were doing was acceptable because they were not properly trained. Anyone living in today's society knows that kind of behavior is unacceptable in any situation.

I was the someone and you would think that is true but evidently not and I personally know of others that don't think it would be offensive if the female doesn't seem to mind. Stupid I know because this female would mind. I won't even get into the racial aspect because that was just stupid beyond words.

gwsp3 said...

Thanks Newracefan. You make my point exactly. To me it is just unbelievable that anyone could think that kind of behavior would be acceptable under any circumstances.

red said...

not just stupid -- it's illegal, plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

Dwight said...
It seems to me that the professional credibility of the members of the press who cover NASCAR suffers when they continue to ignore this story.

July 4, 2008 11:17 AM

It's rather sad. I'm losing respect for the major publications, websites and TV networks because they seem to have blinders on - or blinders placed on for them - when it comes to off-track NASCAR stories which require effort or thought.

I'll still watch said...

If every trial was decided by a three minute video clip of one of the parties to the suit, we really wouldn't need courts, would we?

If Nascar can settle this relatively cheaply, they should, because it will be forgotten in a matter of days. If it goes to a trial, there's a chance that some of the Nascar sponsors could pull out. That hurts much more than any possible loss of fan base, because Nascar's core fans probably couldn't care less about this case.