Saturday, April 2, 2011

Jalen Rose pulled off the air by ESPN for DUI controversy

ESPN analyst and former NBA player Jalen Rose has been in the news quite a bit lately, mostly for his controversial statements about Duke's recruiting practices in the excellent Fab Five documentary Rose produced for ESPN. The story surrounding his "Uncle Tom" remarks has mostly focused on the accuracy of the term, but the context of the statement -- that, ultimately, Rose clearly held that opinion in the past and explained that it was the product of ignorance and bitterness -- has proven that Rose is a thoughtful commentator with a too rare amount of self-awareness.

Sadly, that quality makes the latest Rose news all the more disappointing. As reported earlier this week by WDIV in Detroit, Rose was cited for a DUI in early March and neglected to tell anyone at ESPN about the incident. The Poynter Review Project Blog, the network's ombudsman, rightfully noted yesterday that the situation has compromised ESPN. And now, as reported by Michael McCarthy at USA Today, Rose has been pulled off the air:

ESPN is pulling Jalen Rose off the air after a report found the NBA basketball analyst waited almost three weeks to tell his employers about his arrest in Michigan on suspicion of drunk driving.

"Jalen has accepted full responsibility for his actions. Both parties are taking this very seriously, and as a result, we've agreed that he will not be on our air while he addresses this situation," said ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz in an email to Game On!

To clarify, Rose has not been fired or officially suspended -- he's just off the air for the time being as ESPN sorts out what should be done. However, it wouldn't be shocking if they parted ways, which would be a sad turn of events given that Rose's profile as a commentator has only become larger since the Fab Five documentary aired last month.

At the same time, it's likely that Rose would not have been given such brand-building attention if his DUI arrest had become public knowledge. He should have told ESPN about his troubles, but the decision not to could very well have been influenced by the need to promote his documentary. There were considerations here beyond his responsibilities to his employer. While that doesn't excuse his actions, it does help explain them.

Still, even with this DUI controversy becoming an issue, it's likely that Rose will come out of the events of the past month with a net positive gain for his career. His work with the Fab Five doc has been recognized for its thoughtfulness and candor, and more people around basketball are starting to acknowledge that he's one of the best commentators working today. His career will be fine. That might not be a fair outcome given the seriousness of not being forthcoming about a DUI arrest, but it's also how the TV business usually works.

 ...And he wonders why Duke didn't want him.

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