[caption id="attachment_12190" align="alignnone" width="600"] defendclevelandshow.com[/caption] Friendly fire was dispensed this past Monday over at The Worldwide Leader in Sports. ESPN anchor Robert Flores, who is traditionally seated behind the desk for the network’s flagship program SportsCenter, took a swing at one of the network’s top shows, First Take. During a live afternoon airing of SportsCenter, Flores was recapping a touchdown highlight from Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Upon scoring, Kelce proceeded to perform a popular dance move referred to as “the Quan.” “Now, I’m wondering why there’s no letters to the editor, or why First Take’s not doing, ‘Should Travis Kelce be dancing in the end zone?’” Flores pondered during SportsCenter. Co-anchor Jay Crawford interjected by asking, “You sure they didn’t?” Flores snapped back quickly. “They didn’t. I wonder why they’re not doing that,” he said with sarcasm. “Oh wait, it’s because he’s not black. That’s probably what it is.”
Speaking on the “letters to the editor” comment, Flores is referring to the mother who wrote to The Charlotte Observer about Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton “hitting the Dab,” which is another popular dance move that he does when he scores. Newton is African-American.
What makes Flores’ statement so “real” is that he stepped up and took a shot at the two co-workers – First Take hosts Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless. ESPN dumps millions of dollars into the program, only for its hosts to spew out nonsense. This summer, as reported by SI.com’s Richard Deitsch, ESPN plans to offer Bayless $4 million per year to continue to play his role on First Take. First Take brings to the table for ESPN what media is ultimately after nowadays: ratings. Smith and Bayless yell back and forth at each other, say outlandish things - things that provoke angered reactions from viewers - and pull the race card whenever they see fit.
What the program doesn’t bring to the network is well thought-out and informative sports journalism, which is sad given both had long if not distinguished report- ing careers prior to First Take. Those two don’t get up there each day to debate meaningful subjects in sports. When looking in-depth at what is happening in the sports world, Flores’ shot is justified. His comments show that even people in their own company can see through the mindlessness that is First Take. Smith and Bayless point toward a total non-issue and then make something out of nothing just to spark baseless arguing on television because that’s what sells. ESPN has a name for this model: Embrace Debate.
I plead to the viewers, don’t let it sell. Don’t embrace the nonsense. ESPN shouldn’t be allowed to get away with pushing this second-rate journalism onto the viewers while simultaneously taking away actual substance like it did when the company canned Grantland.
Even though the network signs his paycheck, Flores did sports fans a favor Monday afternoon. No voice speaks louder to the public about a problem than one that comes from within the source itself. Flores took a well-deserved shot at the overall sham ESPN has become. As a viewer, don’t just laugh at how Flores delivered the shot. Instead, think about why he fired it at those he did. After you think, adjust your viewing lens of ESPN accordingly. Dennis Chambers is a journalism major from Mullica Hill, N.J. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DennisChambers_.