ESPN Suspends Dan Le Batard Over LeBron James Billboard Stunt
August 7, 2014 at 5:04 PM (PT)
After ESPN RADIO and LINCOLN FINANCIAL MEDIA Sports WAXY-A-F (THE TICKET)/MIAMI host DAN LE BATARD followed through on his plan to send a message to LEBRON JAMES with billboards in AKRON, OH, mocking the NBA star's move from MIAMI back to CLEVELAND without thanking HEAT fans, ESPN has suspended LE BATARD for two days.
LE BATARD joked last week about buying ads in the CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER and AKRON BEACON JOURNAL with the words "You're Welcome, LEBRON. Love, MIAMI" and pictures of the HEAT's two championship rings won with JAMES as part of the "Big 3" with DWYANE WADE and CHRIS BOSH. Billboards subsequently appeared with that message (and the tag line "This ad is paid for by GONZALO 'PAPI' LE BATARD and STUGOTZ," referring to LE BATARD's father and ESPN2 "HIGHLY QUESTIONABLE" co-host, who also voices imaging for the radio show, and radio co-host JON "STUGOTZ" WEINER). The words "You're Welcome, LeBron" are written in Comic Sans, the much-maligned font used in CAVALIERS owner DAN GILBERT's infamous open letter to JAMES when he left the team to go to MIAMI four years ago.
A statement issued by ESPN TODAY said, "DAN LE BATARD will be off the air for two days, returning MONDAY. His recent stunt does not reflect ESPN’s standards and brand. Additionally, we were not made aware of his plans in advance.” For his part, LE BATARD has said on the air that the newspaper ads never really existed, and the billboards were a "publicity stunt" after the two newspapers claimed to have rejected the ads.
And THE TICKET SVP/GM MAUREEN LESOURD issued a statement saying, "We're THE TICKET 104.3 and we have a passion for SOUTH FLORIDA sports and in particular, the MIAMI HEAT fans. The fans were offended, so for THE TICKET it was a brilliant local promotion and meant for fun, but i have to respect stunts like this don't work for a national outlet like ESPN.
"It's well known that we have a collaborative relationship with ESPN as DAN LEBATARD is a home grown talent here at 104.3 FM AND 790 THE TICKET. DAN was here for 10 years before he became a nationally syndicated talent on ESPN, so it goes without saying that we have a strong affiliation with the network. "We look forward to DAN's return on MONDAY, AUGUST 11th. I can only imagine,
everyone's going to be listening."