Thursday, August 7, 2008

"Outside The Lines" To Focus On NASCAR's Workplace Culture


ESPN's award-winning news series is called Outside The Lines. Created around veteran sports news anchor Bob Ley, this program has long been a news-oriented window into some of the biggest sports issues in the public eye.

This Sunday, OTL will turn to NASCAR. It has been several months since the allegations of racial and sexual abuse from former Nationwide Series inspector Mauricia Grant against various NASCAR employees were made public. Now, ESPN turns the spotlight on NASCAR and the culture of the workplace on racing weekends.

Most NASCAR fans have no idea what the reality of a NASCAR inspector's weekend entails. We see the inspectors on pit road during the TV races and sometimes we see them during tech inspection on TV shows like NASCAR Live . For most of us, this is new territory.

Here is ESPN's explanation of the theme of the OTL episode in question:

"Sunday’s Outside the Lines (9:30 a.m. ET ESPN; noon ESPNEWS) will look at minorities and women who work on the NASCAR circuit. This past June, former NASCAR official Mauricia Grant filed a discrimination lawsuit against the stock-car racing association. In light of Grant’s lawsuit, OTL will explore the work culture inside the NASCAR community."

That is certainly a bold statement coming from NASCAR's largest TV partner. The size of the ESPN company and the ability of OTL to look at this issue with an outsider's perspective should make for some interesting viewing. Whether the outcome will affect public opinion about the Grant lawsuit is up for debate.

OTL has shown a previous history of jumping into the deep end of the pool on hard news issues and this certainly will be a first for NASCAR. An active TV partner talking about and examining the very culture that NASCAR developed and continues to maintain at the racetracks.

We should remind ourselves once again that the allegations in the current lawsuit are limited to the Nationwide Series. Grant was particular in naming names, and two of those mentioned in the lawsuit have already been suspended by the sanctioning body. NASCAR maintains the suspensions have nothing to do with the lawsuit.

Sunday morning on ESPN should be a very interesting time for NASCAR employees and fans alike, as a hard-hitting sports news show ventures into new territory and presents the findings to the entire nation. The results may be a cause of discussion for some time to come.

NASCAR was recently granted a three-week extension to file the response to Grant's lawsuit. That time is now up, and the legal papers will be submitted on Friday, August 8th. Two days before Outside The Lines debuts on ESPN.

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17 comments:

Rockin Rich said...

Do you,(that's the corporate you, JD & his readers), think that ESPN is going to do some solid reporting on this, or sensationalize it? I think it will tend toward the latter.

Late developments are showing that NASCAR is publicly disparaging Ms. Grant's past behavior. There are descriptions of restraining orders filed by a former boyfriend, DUI, driving on a suspended license, and more. Ms. Grant's lawyer is acknowledging the accuracy of the statements.

As we would expect, the whole thing is getting murky, as these things tend to do. Personally, I would rather see ESPN, and the others, let this work its way through the courts.

I don't see the value to the judicial process in spotlighting the NASCAR "culture" as it relates to minorities working within it at this particular time. I think the timing is very wrong. I don't see how this can end up being anything but a sensationalizing of the situation before it goes to trial. Discussion is one thing. TV portrayal by its very nature will most likely be tilted to one side. At least, that's what I expect form ESPN.

I am saying that from the perspective of someone that is of the opinion that Ms. Grant probably has a valid grievance. I think that the financial demands are very out of sync with the grievance however.

I think she will get some benefit from this. I think that no one should get this kind of benefit before the judicial process has at least had a preliminary run.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Rich,

This is going to be a wait-and-see moment for NASCAR and Grant's legal team.

This is a hard-hitting program that does not pull any punches and is not affiliated with NASCAR or the NASCAR Media Group in any way.

It is an independent news-gathering organization that has a track record of jumping into tough subjects.

JD

Rockin Rich said...

RE – JD @9:04 PM, 8/7:

OK, I am not speaking from knowledge of OTL's past performance. If they are separate from ESPN's "normal" news reporting organization, then maybe it will be better than I expect.

If the trial is before a judge rather than before a jury, then there is less opportunity for tainting the process.

I guess we will all "wait-and-see".

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- I am going to try to keep an open mind, but I am skeptical in light of ESPN's finding no need to have any news guidelines and the way in which many of its on-air people and commentators tend to blur fact and opinion.

Anonymous said...

http://sports.yahoo.com/nascar/news?slug=ap-nascar-harassmentlawsuit&prov=ap&type=lgns


I wonder if the above article will be included in any discussion on OTL? It appears that AP reporter Jenny Fryer has been taking a look into Ms Grant's past, and has uncovered certain information. It should be interesting if OTL includes this info in their story.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 10:01PM,

I think you can bet on it. Bob Ley and his staff have always been thorough where the background information is concerned.

JD

Tracy said...

I find it interesting that, as we all predicted, the dirt about Ms. Grant's past (if it can be charaterized as such) is coming out in the press. Even more interesting is that this is happening just before this program airs.

I'll be watching the program with great interest.

Anonymous said...

Well, Brian France said in a news conference something to the effect that NASCAR was going to look into "Ms. Grant's character" -- i.e., he's willing to go as low as he has to make sure he doesn't have to pay her anything. I'm sure a timely call from a well-placed NASCAR source was made this week to Ms. Fryer, letting her know *exactly* where she could find those documents to write her story. NASCAR attorneys probably came across the information as they were researching and preparing the court submission, and decided to pass it along.

OTL is usually a good show because they don't have anything invested in the outcome. Meaning if Jim Hunter or Mike Helton from NASCAR or Grant's lawyer calls them to complain, they're really not going to care - or be bullied.

Dot said...

I knew this was going to happen. Grant should've known it too. What I want to know is, how did she get hired in the first place? No background check by NASCAR?

Ironic that NN showed the diversity kids on this episode.

Lisa Hogan said...

I have never watched this program so I don't know what is normal for the reporting.

If I remember that it is on, I will probably watch.

Nick said...

This program "used" to be serious news reporting. It still wants you to believe that, but many stories now have a "predetermined" outcome that the reporters will get at all costs.

See the recent Penn State Football sham they aired on 7/27/08.

It will be interesting to see if this program is pro-NASCAR or pro-Grant.

Richard in N.C. said...

The alleged negative information about Ms. Grant in the AP article would appear to all be from public records - all of which could probably be accumulated by search organizations for a few $100.

Jo from SC said...

It will be interesting to see how OTL handles this, especially since ESPN's reporters apparently have a mandate this year to "make up stories if you can't find out anything that's true." OTL so far has resisted that mandate for NASCAR and I hope they continue to.

As for Ms. Grant, I agree with Anonymous 12:04 about the timing of the AP's "suddenly" finding these documents--if they were just doing a computer search that would have turned up immediately after the filing. More to the point, remember that Ms. Grant is the official NASCAR CHOSE to present to the L.A. media several years ago as the poster girl for how well NASCAR's diversity efforts were working. Now they want the public to believe she's money-grubbing scum. (And remember, this is the same NASCAR that doesn't suspend drivers who arrested for DUI....). Rockin' Rich, you're right--this is about trying the case out of court. I just hope OTL doesn't become part of the lynch mob.

Richard in N.C. said...

Coincidentally, as far as trying the case in the media, the AP indicates that Ms. Grant and her attorney have a public relations firm representing them.

Rockin Rich said...

Re: Richard In NC @4:11 PM today:

Yeah, I noticed the statement in one of the write ups that said" ...the PR firm of [whatever the name is] representing [the lawyer, whatever his name is] and [Grant] said...". Sorry I don't have the exact quote, but I don't feel like taking the time to search for it.

I was disappointed, but not surprised to see it. Both sides are attempting to try this in the press. Seems to be the thing to do these days. I guess with that ridiculous amount of money they are asking for that a lot of slugs come out from under the rocks.

I thought from the first time I saw this that there are probably no innocent parties here. As I said before, I do think there is a true grievance here. I don't think it's worth that ridiculous sum though.

I also think that Mr. B. France is in fact clueless. I think that he has surrounded himself with yes-men that don't tell him the way things really are. I have no idea what the OTL program, (see JD, all my blathering really does have a connection to NASCAR TV), but I suspect that Mr. France won't see it.

That's enough! I don't want to get started on Mr. France. My opinion of him tends toward that of Matt McLauhglin's.

Rathna said...

I Never watch this program.So honestly i have no idea on this program.probably!! I may start watching after reading this post.

Rathna said...

I had a chance of watching this program by last week, i find good interesting new through this program.I feel its worth spending time on this...