ESPN suspends Kornheiser for comments on Hannah Storm’s attire

As ESPN‘s mob of personalities grows, incidents arise that help define ESPN’s internal do’s and don’ts. Tuesday, ESPN left no doubt about how to speak of fellow staffers: No badmouthing.

ESPN announced Tony Kornheiser, co-host of its weekday Pardon The Interruption, is on a two-week suspension that started Monday for comments about ESPN anchor Hannah Storm.

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They were, said ESPN executive vice president John Skipper in a statement, “entirely inappropriate. Hurtful and personal comments such as these are not acceptable and have significant consequences.”

Asked if the key was that Kornheiser was talking about a fellow staffer rather than specifically what he what said, spokesman Mike Soltys said: “Yes. Respect for colleagues is paramount!”

What Kornheiser said, on his weekday local radio show on ESPN’s Washington, D.C. affiliate Friday, was that Storm was on-air in a “horrifying outfit” with “red go-go boots” and a skirt “way too short for somebody her age.” He added the kicker: “She’s what I would call a Holden Caulfield fantasy at this point.”

Kornheiser has apologized on-air and as well as to Storm personally. On the show Tuesday, he noted his suspension and said he wouldn’t talk about it in any interviews.

So, some context. Kornheiser, on that show, occasionally critiques on-air TV fashions —Kathie Lee Gifford, on NBC‘s Today show, has been found wanting — which is perfectly fair game given costuming is a big part of TV. He also makes great use of what he finds irritating — Storm’s stylings just seemed like fodder.

ESPN is missing the big picture. As a scrappy start-up that rode its edginess into becoming established, it needs to keep its edginess to avoid becoming your father’s Oldsmobile to young viewers. It does that with sometimes goofy new stuff like Stuart Scott doing a studio interview with a hologram of NBA star Dwight Howard Sunday.

ESPN’s talking heads are melting ice caps with round-the-clock chatter that no longer seems very novel amidst today’s endless sports yak. ESPN could cut through the clutter by adding a wild card: Let its own staffers form their own circular firing squads.

That would entertain the rest of us.

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