ESPN is in the business of entertainment, sports and, recently, suspending its on-air talent.
Dan Le Batard of ESPN’s “Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable” and ESPN Radio show “The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz” has been suspended by his employer for putting up a billboard in Akron, Ohio, taunting LeBron James.
The advertisement reads: “You’re Welcome, LeBron, Love, Miami,” and features a photo of the two championship rings the Miami Heat won during James’ tenure in South Beach. It’s signed by the radio program.
That was good enough to get the Miami native suspended by his famously LeBron-friendly sports network.
“Dan Le Batard will be off the air for two days, returning Monday,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said in a statement. “His recent stunt does not reflect ESPN’s standards and brand. Additionally, we were not made aware of his plans in advance.”
This high-profile suspension follows another recent one at ESPN: Last week, the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader in Sports” suspended “First Take” co-host Stephen A. Smith over remarks he made about a domestic violence incident between Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his now-wife.
At the time, Smith said, “We keep talking about the guys… But at the same time, we also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation.”
Rice has been suspended for two games for the upcoming NFL season for allegedly beating his fiancee.
According to Greg Cote’s Miami Herald blog, Le Batard had been chatting openly about his plan on the radio. Le Batard, who has been a sportswriter at the Herald since 1990, originally intended to post the below image as full page ads in local newspapers, but the print companies wouldn’t play ball. So he went to Plan B.
Le Batard explained his intentions to Cote via text message: “It’s just fun anarchy. All meant in fun — which, of course, will turn into Cleveland people getting filled with rage, poison and irrational hostility and want to use those billboards as a guillotine. Sports are so great, the more irrational the better. This is a publicity stunt disguised as a movement. Please don’t tell anyone there is no actual movement.”
The signage was intended as revenge for James opting out of his Miami Heat contract to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who drafted him No. 1 overall in 2001.
James is from Akron, Ohio and played his high school ball locally at St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Here’s an image of the billboard, courtesy of a tweet by Bill Corben, who directed ESPN’s “30 for 30” film “The U.”
— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) August 7, 2014