Sportswriter Bruce Feldman has left ESPN to work for CBS, about a month after ESPN asked him to stop tweeting, blogging and doing interviews following the release of a book he co-authored with then-Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach. In an interview with Richard Deitsch, Feldman says ESPN gave him permission to write the book, which was critical of the sports network. According to Feldman:
They [ESPN] used my access when it benefited them in terms of they put me on “SportsCenter” multiple times and identified me as doing a book with Mike Leach when they wanted me to talk about his mindset after he found out he got fired. They asked me to help get a sit-down with him after he was fired, which I did. So they used my access.
Before the book’s release, Feldman says, he was told he’d be offered a new three-year contract with a raise. After the book was released, he says, that changed.
When he met last month with John Skipper, ESPN’s executive vice president for content, Feldman said Skipper told him he would not be getting a raise and would only be offered a one-year deal. “I said, ‘John, I have been in the company for 17 years. I have been in the “Best American Sportswriting” three times, you guys have nominated numerous features I have done for National Magazine Awards, and my Insider subscription numbers have more than doubled in the past year. So what am I going to show in the next year that I have not shown you in 17 years?’ If there was not some kind of disciplinary, vindictive action from ESPN, I don’t know what the semantics on that are.
Poynter serves as ESPN’s ombudsman, and in that role ethics faculty Kelly McBride wrote about the controversy without speaking to Feldman. He tells Deitsch he was asked not to speak to McBride, and that her piece was “littered with inaccuracies.”
ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys told SI.com: “We have significant disagreements with his account. Beyond that, we are not commenting.”