Our Daily Dread: Lawler-Smith punished after one email objection; media hijinx ensue

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And that guy who did so — we’re going with a Clipper season-seat holder named Arya Towfighi, since the L.A. Times has so gracefully printed his name in today’s edition — is responsible for having Michael Eaves replace Ralph Lawler (and Don MacLean over Michael Smith, a noted improvement) during the Clippers-Nuggets broadcast on Prime Ticket Friday night.

Put on a raincoat and goggles if you’re ready to enter this crapstorm:

Issue 1: The coverage:

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== Today’s L.A. Times’ “HOLY $*!# MAN WALKS ON MOON” approach makes it look as if the U.S. has just declared war on Iran. A story with all-out caps, taking up more than 50 percent of the front page, buries an otherwise more interesting piece of news — the Clippers just registered their biggest win of the season, an improbable 7-point victory over the Denver Nuggets, who a week ago destroyed the Lakers. If you take the Times’ front page at face value, it looks as if: a) Lawler died, b) a mean looking guy for the Memphis Grizzlies wants revenge, c) it was a very, very, very, very, very slow news day and someone’s knee jerk judgment got in the way — almost as fast as someone’s did at FSN before this decision was finally made.
“WORDS GET IN THEIR WAY” read the headline. Story gets in L.A. Times’ way is how it came out.

== The L.A. Daily News — my employer — played it as a seperate story, inside, above the story about the Clippers’ victory. At first, I believed it was being overplayed. I wasn’t sure what the purpose of this “story” was about or the message we were delivering — outside of describing what was said and their was a suspension taking place.
Earlier in the night, when this story appeared on the Associated Press wire services, I was alerted to it by my boss. My intial reaction: There’s got to be more to this. I’ll make some calls, see what I can find out. Since that’s all the information we had — four paragraphs, without a transcript — we decided that it was worth placing at the end of the Clippers’ game story, which was reported by the Associated Press. We’d make note of it, we’ll follow up later if there seems to be more news to this. That was exactly how it was displayed in the Daily Breeze — on page 10 of their section today.
Somehow, the earlier Daily News gameplan changed, and it was displayed larger with a headline, but not that was a far more reasonable approach to it than how the Times went carpetbagging with it.

Issue 2: How this story came to be:
The Times, according to its story, was one of three place where this angered viewer sent his email, taking offense to how Lawler and Smith talked about Memphis big-man Hamed Haddadi, the first Iranian player to make the NBA, as he entered the game against the Clippers on Wednesday. The person emailed them a transcript of what was said about Haddadi — using terms that referred to Sasha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” character, pronouncing his native country as “Eye-ran.”
About 2-plus hours before the game, FSN West/Prime Ticket issued some sort of press release explaining why Lawler/Smith were being replaced by Eaves/MacLean, how what they said was inappropriate, issued apologies, and explained that they took appropriate action — with no mention that Lawler and Smith had been taken off the air. Sorry, but you not only buried the lead, you didn’t even report your “appropriate” action. That’s very appropriate for a company that, of late, has no tact in dealing with the local media, and I’ve come to accept that as well. It’s almost as if they’ve become the Clippers of the local media entities. It’s a place where good people no longer work, and other good people have been let go for budgetary reasons that go beyond any quality explanation.
In the end, this was apparently a story created for the Times, about the Clippers and with FSN West/Prime Ticket’s steering. They had ownership and were going to move forward.

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Issue 3: The punishment:
Did Lawler and Smith deserve to be taken off the air and made an example of for what they said? Not based on their inglorious track record.
The two have been a Punch-n-Judy nightclub act for the last eight years. Stories have actually been written about how “fun” it is to listen to them exchange crazy thoughts and ideas as another lame loss goes into the books. Why else would anyone watch a Clipper game, if not because they enjoyed the broadcaster’s chemistry, idle banter and poor-man Abbott and Costello routines. Neither are close to being my favorite broadcasters, but I accept the fact others like them, so, as an athlete says when he has no explanation for something: It is what it is.
So, let’s review — they are encouraged to get a little silly. And, here, they do. And someone hears it. How? Chances are — seriously — that no exec at FSN West/Prime Ticket would have even been aware this was said except for ONE EMAIL that was sent. In our opinion, they did cross a line, but nothing that is outlandish in this day in age. But by the same token comment, it should be reported, dealt with, explained, used as a teaching moment, and you shake your head and move forward. If one person is offended, you take note. If two are offended, you add it to the pile.
From what appears to be only ONE EMAIL, all this action took place.
But then again, considering the parties involved, it makes perfect nonsense. The Times, the Clippers and FSN West/Prime Ticket are stumbling over themselves today wondering if they did the right thing, while at the same time, probably feeling some pride that they did something newsworthy. It’s ripe for a Three Stooges script.

One other thing: The Times’ story adds that “this isn’t the first time Fox has disciplined an announcer for on-air comments,” and then gets into the Steve Lyons firing in the 2006 ALCS. That was Fox, the big network, handling something said after Lyons had been on thin ice for many seasons. This is Fox Sports Net West/Prime Ticket, a different “thing” in the Fox pecking order, and a stretch at best in what happened here.

Issue 4: More on the punishment:
Lawler and Smith get suspended.
Norm Nixon (linked here) gets a DUI in Marina del Rey last March. FSN West kept him on the air as a pre- and post-game studio analyst through the Lakers regular season and playoff run. If he was punished for this, there was no press release issued. If he was not punished…. find the logic.

Some great reaction today:
== The Miami Herald website (linked here)

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  • Plus15

    First of all Ralph Lawler is a wonderful guy and a good broadcaster saddled with making the constantly disastrous Clippers sound functional. Mike Smith is a stiff. Both are the ultimate straight arrows with Mike undoubtedly the worse of the two. Neither have patience with players straying from the straight and narrow. They have no vibe and no swing, elements in a broadcasting team that should be brought by the ex-player i.e. Mike Smith.

    The response to their comments noticed by one man is unwarranted based on the reports of their crime. You can bet they’ll have the guy who screwed them on with them next week to give them the correct pronunciation of Iran and Iranian. The only difference between them and any other broadcasters saying something anyone finds offensive is this one man was upset, not exactly a protest. But pretty much left out of the conversation is the media organization punishing Ralph and Mike which happens to be the same media organization FOX, owned by the billionaire immigrant political instigator Rupert Murdoch whose FOX News division is working hard to destabilize America and overthrow our government. Rather then punish their outrageously vile
    “newsmen and women” and their “commentators” who do daily damage lying to America they punish the softest most innocent targets they could find. This is how FOX tries to teach the lessons of the United States of America? Or how an Australian citizen thinks they should? It’s imbecilic.

    By the way this week Sarah Palin guested on FOX’s Hannity Show and the next President totally confused Iran with Iraq, calling Iran Iraq did Mr. Arya Towfighi
    complain? and were Palin or Hannity suspended? Just wondering.

  • minx

    Lawler and Smith make one faux pas and Fox suspends them, yet Donald Sterling gets taken down by the Feds to the tune of $2.7 MILLION, the largest discrimination lawsuit ever, and David Stern does nothing. Roger Goodell, a commissioner with a backbone, might have handled Sterling with a little more gravitas. “I love this game.” Not.