Home > Uncategorized > Oh No, Mr Tony…

Oh No, Mr Tony…

Tony Kornheiser was suspended yesterday for two weeks from the PTI show for comments he made last week about Sportcenter Anchor Hanah Storm.  I listen to Tony’s radio show most days and I happened to be listening on Thursday when he made the comments and I happened to be listening on Friday when he appologised.  I guess it makes sense to go in chronological order, so I’ll start with his comment on Storm and go from there:

Hannah Storm in a horrifying, horrifying outfit today. She’s got on red go-go boots and a catholic school plaid skirt … way too short for somebody in her 40s or maybe early 50s by now…She’s got on her typically very, very tight shirt. She looks like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body … I know she’s very good, and I’m not supposed to be critical of ESPN people, so I won’t … but Hannah Storm … come on now! Stop! What are you doing? … She’s what I would call a Holden Caulfield fantasy at this point.

If you listen regularly to TK, then you know that this is what he does.  In his studio, there are several TVs, which his co-hosts and him watch while discussing the news of the day.  When something on the TV strikes their attention they comment on whatever that might be.  The comments are usually of the critical variety and they’re often funny.  Tony is old, acerbic, cantankerous, and opinionated.  In this case, he’s also right.

Many of Hannah Storm’s Sportscenter outfits are at best inappropriate and at worst the type of clothing that elicits words like cougar. (of course, if you’re Tony Kornheiser, why say “cougar,” when you could say, “a Holden Caulfield fantasy”)  Ostensibly this is fine, and I believe that Storm should wear whatever she wants, but ESPN requires their men to dress in suits, so why do they not require their women to dress in kind?  As Storm herself wrote in 2008,

My preference is fitted and feminine clothes and I am really happy with my style now because its much more reflective of my personality and a lot more fun, rather than being so anchor-ish!

So, if Storm is going to dress in clothes that reflect her personality, then can Stuart Scott wear leopard print pants and a grey fedora to ESPN’s NBA telecasts?  I just want to understand where the line is here?  This is an issue of women’s sexuality in sports broadcasting.  Storm is wearing clothes that make her feel attractive and that’s fine, but they aren’t professional, and while she has every right to wear them, in so doing she opens herself up to criticism (just as Scott would were he to wear the aforementioned outfit).

I’m not taking the position that TK’s comments weren’t inappropriate, they were.  However, on the internet I’ve seen it proposed that Kornheiser was suspended for sexist comments about Storm.  I’m sorry, but this just isn’t the case.  His comments were harsh, and perhaps mean spirited, and they related to sexuality, but that in and of itself, does not make them sexist.  He was critiquing her outfit, it’s the same thing that happens a thousand times a day in every walk of life.  And, as I mentioned above, it’s the same thing that Kornheiser does every day on his show.  So, really, what his comment required was a sincere apology.  And that is what Kornheiser gave on Friday:

I apologize unequivocally. … I was wrong. This is sort of what I do, and I’m sorry for it. … Not the first time and won’t be the last time but I apologise for it this time.

There was more, but the essence is there.  Kornheiser was wrong, he knew he was wrong, and he said so.  He admitted that he’s an idiot, that he looks like a troll and that it should be self evident that (because he looks like a troll) no one should take his fashion comments seriously.  He also acknowledged that he had called Storm to apologise personally to her.

This seemed fair, and to me at the time it seemed like the end of the situation.  Then yesterday I turned on PTI to Dan Le Batard’s voice and I thought… ‘Huh, I wonder if he had a “forced” day off?’  Before today’s show, in a single paragraph item on ESPNs homepage I read that Tony was suspended for two weeks.  My first thought was, ‘oh, well I guess I have an extra half hour every day now, and my second thought was, wow, that’s absurd.’

As I’ve mentioned, TK makes comments like this about everyone.  Maybe not as deliciously juicy as the sausage comparison, and maybe not as literally vivid as the Caulfield remark, but he bitches, moans, complains, and denigrates all kinds of people.  He screams for Chuck Bell to be fired, he demands that Hoda Kotb be left out in the snow, he wishes death on the pretentious people who ski down his street during the winter, and he criticizes the wardrobe choices of people on television.  The only difference between all his other rants and this one, is that Storm is also employed by ESPN.

Now, I’m not one of those bloggers who rails against the evil that is ESPN.  This is perhaps because as a Canadian I don’t see all of their television product, but I think much, obviously not all, but perhaps most, of their online material is very, very good.  Do they milk topics like Sox-Yanks for every penny it’s worth?  Sure, but they are a business and I can’t generally get too worked up with a network focusing their coverage on the topics that will elicit the greatest ratings.  Over all, given how coverage of Sports was before the Four Letter, I can’t really be to virulent against them.

Having said that, Kornheiser’s suspension is so patently ridiculous that everyone with ESPN should be embarrassed.  From the press release:

Tony Kornheiser’s comments about Hannah Storm were entirely inappropriate. Hurtful and personal comments such as these are not acceptable and have significant consequences.

Are TK and Hannah Storm co-workers?  In the strictest sense, yes.  But that’s like saying that me and the HamBurgler are coworkers.  Was he mean to a co-worker?  Yes.  Does that warrant a day off?  Maybe, but a day at most.  When you start handing out two week long suspensions for your talent criticizing one another, well, you’re walking a dangerous path.

ESPN, owned of course by the Walt Disney  Co., is derided by the online community for exactly this sort of perceived draconian censorship.  Correct or not, the perception is that they punish their talent for making any sort of disparaging comment about the company or it’s employees.  In suspending Tony for so long, they’re trying to maintain an image that everything at ESPN is magical, when in reality sometimes things are horrifying.  It’s unfortunate, but at least I know that for the next two weeks, I have an extra half hour  to critique the outfit that you’re wearing…

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