Sunday, August 29, 2010

Time For ESPN To Reinstate Randy LaJoie


When it was announced in June that Randy LaJoie had failed a NASCAR drug test while working as a spotter at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, ESPN was quick to respond.

LaJoie had been working for the network in a variety of roles for several years. The same day that NASCAR suspended LaJoie indefinitely, so did ESPN. At the time, only NASCAR had a clearly defined pathway for LaJoie's return.

Wednesday, the sanctioning body made it official:

Randy LaJoie has been re-instated by NASCAR for competition following completion of a NASCAR-approved treatment program and the satisfactory fulfillment of all requirements for reinstatement.

Since the start, LaJoie has taken full responsibility for his actions. He continued that theme with his statment after being reinstated:

"I am thankful to NASCAR for reinstating me for competition and grateful to my friends and family who supported me through this time," said LaJoie. "This has been a tremendous learning and growing process for me and I have come through it a stronger, better person. I am looking forward to returning to work and continuing to prove to NASCAR, my colleagues, my family and my friends that this was an isolated incident that I have put behind me."

ESPN's road to recovery is a bit different. LaJoie never failed an ESPN drug test and his suspension from the network was a bit of a shock. Simply keeping LaJoie on the sidelines while he went through the NASCAR program might have made a bit more sense.

If there is any network that needs some more characters on TV, it's ESPN. LaJoie's presence on NASCAR Now's Monday shows brought some honest talk with some laughs along the way. His veteran perspective on safety issues came into play time and time again. LaJoie has a value to ESPN where NASCAR is concerned.

Since ESPN took over both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series coverage, it has used Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree in the booth to work practice, qualifying and the races for both series. One announce team is doubling-up.

In the past, LaJoie was used to work some stand-alone Nationwide Series races. The results were outstanding, especially when teamed with Bestwick. Those two brought out the best in Rusty Wallace. This was especially true when LaJoie led the charge to kid Rusty about his Nationwide Series teams and his son Steven's colorful driving style.

There is a long way to go this season and Jarrett and Petree need to focus on the Sprint Cup Series, the upcoming Chase and the quality of the telecasts. Having these two work both series, including practice and qualifying leaves the Nationwide Series out in the cold.

Like two good relief pitchers, LaJoie and Ricky Craven have been warming up in the ESPN bullpen for several years now. Craven's recent performance in the TV booth working as an analyst on a Nationwide Series race was outstanding. It just might be time to get a second team focused on the Nationwide Series out into the field.

Let's hope that ESPN follows the example they set back in June when taking NASCAR's lead and this time brings LaJoie back to actively working for the network. He has satisfied the NASCAR requirements, completed a treatment program and admitted the incident.

We all have moments in life we would like to have back. We all have times we wish we had acted differently. Now is the right time for ESPN to step-up and reinstate LaJoie.

We welcome your opinion on this topic. To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

38 comments:

Daly Planet Editor said...

Happy to have your comments on the reinstatement of LaJoie and the ESPN issues as well.

Anonymous said...

ESPN didn't suspend LaJoie because he violated a policy, but because it doesn't suit their image to have a dope-smoker on the air. That hasn't changed.

Personally, I find LaJoie's alibi to be flimsy at best -- his story is basically that he never ever does pot, but one time took drugs from random fans in the infield. Doesn't hold water with me one bit.

I'm not anti-pot, in fact I think it's a benign drug overall - but I can certainly understand why a television news network doesn't want that sort of association. I like LaJoie, but he doesn't have a right to return to ESPN, and since they've been humming along just fine without him, I doubt he'll ever be back.

earl06 said...

I've always liked Randy, when I started watching NASCAR seriously, he was my man in the Busch series since we grew up a few miles from each other.

Randy's always been able to let his personality show through. Other than the infomercials for his seat company, I've enjoyed his input. Let him back, there's a lot of dead weight saying nothing in his absence.

+1 on Craven taking a bigger role in anything. He keeps things interesting and has great knowledge of the sport top-to-bottom.

Shane fan said...

I know ESPN has different standards than NASCAR...but it as glad as I am for Randy to be back, when is NASCAR going to let Shane Hmiel back in? Just saying. Okay for JC France, but not for Shane.

Anyways, I think Randy has probably learned what not to do...I'll be glad, i like his sense of humor and I was just thinking today how I missed his opinion.

Shane fan said...

doh...misread who reinstated. Based on that, NASCAR looks even more stupid (than I am for misreading). Free Randy, free Shane!

Anonymous said...

The man made a mistake. He's a past champion and if he was a life long drug user I doubt he would have won two Busch Championships and started a successful racing seat company. Maybe he's hit the weed a time or two in life, but I think he's paid his dues in this instance. Maybe if ESPN doesn't pick up back up Speed will.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

That is hipcrasy at it's best. Randy Lajoie, like you said John, did not violate ESPN policy. However ESPN suspended him anyway because he was so to speak tarnishing ESPN's image. Well guess what ESPN your image is already tainted as far as I am concerned. The prempting of NASCAR Now for basically nothing the other day was the straw that broke my back. I could care less about the many changes ESPN made, the NASCAR Now premption made me angry. Just don't watch ESPN anymore.

The National Impeach Brian France and boycott ESPN committee is responsible for the content of this message.

Anonymous said...

With ESPN's recent image problems - including the latest hit they took because of Jay Marioti, I don't see Lajoie making a return anytime soon.

Hate that, but that's the price of working at ESPN

Garry said...

It's funny, if Roger Clemens wanted a job at ESPN, or Tiger Woods wanted to be a golf analyst for that network, ESPN would clamor to sign them.Rememebr, NASCAR has been the ugly step-child that ESPN never wanted, so it makes since they will probably never reinstate Lajoie again. This is the same network that almost glorifies drug and gang activity with their kid glove treatment of NBA and NFL players.ALL media looks the other way with stick and ball athletes ALL the time.

oldnewenglander said...

I saw Rick Sutcliffe on an ESPN2 baseball telecast this evening, and he's continued to have a fine broadcasting career despite an unfortunate incident involving alcohol in San Diego a few years back.

Randy works well in the studio and he should be welcomed back on-air in Bristol.

He should also get a chance alongside Craven and either Burns or Welch on the Nationwide events. I was going to say I preferred Evernham, but this news that he may buy Motorsports Management International (MMI) for me creates a conflict of interest that is too great.

Could you imagine Joe Buck, Tim McCarver and Scott Boras on FOX Saturday Baseball?

Adam Wood said...

ESPN suspended LaJoie because it was clear he violated a drug policy-he even admitted to it. But that's old news.

Anyway, if I were the President of ESPN, I would bring LaJoie back for NASCAR Now and such, but I wouldn't let him call any races for the rest of this season. Anti-drug advocates will surely try to make a huge deal of it, and that isn't something ESPN or NASCAR need right now.

Gymmie said...

I hope they reinstate him I really like Randy. I'd rather have Randy than what others who work for that network have done of late :(.

I understand the suspension in the sense that people have lost jobs for things they've done that had nothing to do with the job. Morality clauses and all. But I think he has learned from this and will be a better man.

RPM said...

Give me a break. Randy indulged in the demon weed during his off time and at no point endangered the safety of any member of any race team or TV crew. ESPN should have never suspended him in the first place.

Jonathan said...

Boy I cant wait for Randy to come back i've missed him! He's always been my favorite personality when it comes to Nascar! Wish him the best of luck and hope ESPN Reinstates him!!!

Jonathan said...

Boy I cant wait for Randy to come back i've missed him! He's always been my favorite personality when it comes to Nascar! Wish him the best of luck and hope ESPN Reinstates him!!!

Anonymous said...

I've always considered Randy's commentating as a breath of fresh air. He knows what he's talking about and tells it like it is. Someone will put him in the booth. As for ESPN, who cares. My God,when you look at the criminal behavior of literally dozens of stick and ball professional athletes, ESPN is in no position to talk about values.

Vicky D said...

Nascar reinstating Randy is good news, and hopefully we won't have to wait very long for ESPN to follow. On several NN shows you can tell where Randy would have fitted in much better than who they have on their panel. He seems to be the guy that doesn't mind jumping in a plane and flying up to Connecticut to do the shows. JD you are correct, Randy & Allen seem to really work well together I don't know whether it's the New England thing. Now if we can hear that David Starr has a ride for the Chicago race then that would make our week!

Anonymous said...

IN with Randy.
OUT with Rusty and Brad.

(Word verification: 'sucki' - lol)

Anonymous said...

Also note that PRN has already re-instated Randy.....he was on the air last weekend for the network's post-race show....

Keith_Kagee said...

I agree 100%. Put Randy back on ESPN!

GinaV24 said...

I like Randy, too. He made a mistake, admitted it and has done whatever program NASCAR has deemed necessary, so for me, that is good enough.

I'm sure that behind the scenes at ESPN there are a lot of people who have made a mistake too. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone -- right?

Reinstate Randy and let him get back to doing his job at ESPN.

Donna in FL said...

ESPN, I want Randy back on TV. That is all.

Anonymous said...

I hope that ESPN will also re-instate Randy, as he is not only a valuable addition to his team, but he has also been very up-front about this issue, no denials or excues, just a "I did it and was stupid to do so" followed by going through the rehab procedure as required. He deserves a second chance.

Steve said...

Man Anon... you're being a bit hard on him. I'm pretty sure many of the TV and Radio guys get pretty drunk in the infield. I listen to The Godfather everyday and he doesn't try to hide the fact they ride around in MRN golfcart and have a good time.

So... you are riding around hammered and a fan passes you a joint and you think awwww what could it hurt. Seems very plausible to me.

Anonymous said...

Randy is a success story for the NASCAR drug rehab. program. He took the high road and owned up to the issue. He did what NASCAR asked and was reinstated. Hope ESPN does the same.

Darcie said...

Well, at least ESPN may be starting to be consistent with their policies. They've now prevented their bikini model, turned "knowledgeable" college football interviewer from appearing in a beer commercial. At least we know that they'll hit you regardless of gender. But I want Randy back, asap. He's so much better than a lot of what they now have. Can we hope that a couple of their present Nascar talking heads get caught sparking a doobie?

Dot said...

I'm responding because I think Randy reads TDP and I want him to know that I'm glad NASCAR reinstated him. Funny, for a guy who smoked weed, he sure has a successful seat business. Anyway, I have always liked him.

I agree with the other Planeteers regarding BSPN's hypocrisy.
Look at the LeBron disaster. The latest with that Jay guy. And, I don't have to mention the thugs they fawn all over. I hope Randy does get his job back at BSPN. Enjoy him on NN & in the booth.

Jojaye said...

Randy did it, admitted it, and then did what rehab was outlined for him to return to NASCARs good graces. Now espn should re instate him period.
Randy showed others who might get in the same pickle how to accept responsibility & do what ya gotta do.
Besides I really enjoy Randy giving cRusty the once over lightly.

Heck even Marv Albert was forgiven, and that was far more umm interesting.

word veri = efoxes LOL

MRM4 said...

I find the comparisons between Randy and Shane Hmiel to be comical. Randy is a one-time offender and it was from pot. Hmiel flunked many drug tests and was taking harder drugs. He was given one last chance and still continued to take part.

As far as ESPN goes, they will never keep anybody around that ruins their image regarding failing drug tests, anything illegal, or nasty extra-marital affairs. Just look at how they kicked to the curb people like Harold Reynolds, Steve Phillips, and Sean Salisbury (all public incidents that made them look bad), but have kept others who had their own issues but never became public until years after they happened. I'm not sure how Rick Sutcliff was able to stay other than drinking isn't illegal even if being drunk on the air is stupid.

When Ben Rothliseberger had his first off-field issue a year or so ago, ESPN never once reported on the story. The reason was he was to appear on an upcoming episode of "Shaq vs." on ABC. They never once mentioned the story until his name was cleared. But on this recent story, they were all over it from Day One. It's all about their image.

Tripp in MS said...

Isn't part of the story of America how someone can pull himself up from a mistake or some other kind of adversity. Face the issue, make changes or amends an move forward?

I liked Randy when he was a driver and I liked him a lot more after hearing his periodic visits on the old Sirius NASCAR Radio "Driver's Seat". I could tell that he shot from the lip and what he said was full of old fashioned common sense.

Add to that his company, The Joie of Seating and his ongoing commitment to driver safety and I cannot believe anything other that Randy is a flawed individual (as we all are) but honest and clear thinking. If he says he's made changes, I believe him. There is no reason for me not to.

I think that ESPN should rescind his suspension now. If they're not, cut him loose so that he can go do something else. Now, ESPN can do whatever it wants here and viewers will vote on its decisions with their remotes.

I'll continue to watch the races on ESPN but I'll continue to not watch NASCAR Now and Sports Center and all of their other programs. Not because I don't like ESPN but because I have no interest in their other programming.

Free Randy. Reinstate him or cut him loose.

OSBORNK said...

ESPN needs better talking heads. Randy is better than many they have there now. I suspect that if ESPN held their current talking heads to the same standard as they have held Randy and made them take random drug tests, I suspect there would be more than a couple suspended.

BRING RANDY BACK!

Tasmanian Devil said...

I don't think anyone is saying Randy's situation is just like Hmiel's (although I find it a bit hard to believe Randy would have starting smoking his very first joint at his age...just saying). He was also broadcasting & spotting, not driving.

But it's also true that Shane has been (voluntarily) drug testing himself for like 3 or 4 years now, and has turned his life around. If anything, I would think it would be somewhat inspiring to showcase that (although I don't know if anyone is still interested; it's a tough stigma to break and he made a lot of mistakes.) NASCAR did the right thing in suspending him (he said it was the best thing that ever happened to him). But I also think 'lifetime' makes less sense than 'indefinitely', which gives them an option.

In any case, Randy has followed all the prescribed rules, and done so with humility (something profoundly lacking these days...) I think ESPN already has, as many have pointed out, a lot of worse characters in their stable. If ESPN chooses not to, I'd love for them to find a home for him at Speed/Fox. He always had a witty insight, even from the first time I heard him do a Busch race years ago. As a commentator, they could do worse.

Newracefan said...

I too want to put my vote in for ESPN to bring back Randy LaJoie. This isn't Mayfield here, he admitted and went to counseling as opposed to denied and sued. Do I think that was his first joint ever, probably not but I do think it won't happen again. Maybe I'm a little Pollyanna in the aspect but hey it's my right. Ok so maybe ESPN (who shouldn't have dumped him in the first place but I digress) can ease him in the rest of the season and use full force next year. He is too good of an asset to just throw away. Especially since I think part of the problem with ESPN and the same guys calling NW and cup is by the time cup race happens they don't have much left. It certainly appeared that way in Bristol.

Mary said...

Love Randy - hope he comes back very soon!

Chadderbox said...

Didn't ESPN suspend Eric Kuselius and take him back?

He is back on the radio.


I heard him on Mike and Mike the other morning.

Curt said...

I've personally known Randy for about a year now, met the family, know his kids, been to his shop. He is one of the most "Stand Up" men I've met. Everyone makes a mistake now and then, we all do.

I think ESPN would Benefit from having him come back. All his fans love him, He tells it like it is and in my opinion he lost the filter that most of us have...he always tells the truth, which is what makes him so endearing. (Ok, sorry I used endearing and Randy in the same sentence.)

And I'm sure ESPN like every other media outlet enjoys a rating boost, so why not?

Anonymous said...

couldn't agree more. Bring back Randy. Shane fan, they did let Hmeil back and he screwed up again.
coachkevin64

Rockin Rich said...

Did anyone catch the mention of LaJoie during the Sunday's pre-race show?

During the "news" segment Allen said "NASCAR has reinststed ESPN analyst Randy LaJoie...". He didn't say former ESPN analyst. Sounds to me that Randy is slated to come back. Or, maybe that was Allen making his personal statement in an effort to push ESPN management to allow Randy back? It caught my attention.