Last week, we reported on the heavy dose of crashes and mishaps that have plagued the Tour de France this year. One crash in particular has captured the attention of even the non-cycling public largely because of the insensitive comments of ESPN sports commentator Michael Smith. From Bike Snob’s post on Bicycling Magazine’s blog to a “Fire Michael Smith” Facebook page, and even a petition set up on Change.org for this very incident, the Web is buzzing with banter and calls for Smith’s resignation.
The following is a series of Twitter posts from Smith in reference to the gruesome wreck of Johnny Hoogerland, which left the rider entangled in a barbed-wire fence after a car hit his group of riders in the Tour de France:
“For real, am I wrong for laughing at that Tour de France crash? Can’t get over the driver speeding off as if he didn’t know he hit someone!”
“I’m sorry that crash is hilarious. Every. Time.”
Really? Has Smith ever been in a wreck? I have, and they certainly are not funny. The tweets continued:
“It had far been too long since I’d angered an entire community. Today I’ve managed to offend cyclists everywhere. Guess what? It’s still funny.”
Then, after a ton of blowback from sane people the world over, Smith issues a mea culpa of sorts:
“I’d like to apologize to cyclists, people who ride bikes, people who know people who ride bikes, and even paperboys. Happy? I miss anybody?”
This is the one that really got blood boiling. I’m not sure I’ve heard a more insincere apology than this one ever.
Finally, see the tweet below. The public gets what sounds like an honest apology, but I can’t help but feel like this is an “if you value your job, you better make this right” sort of order from the brass at ESPN.
“I apologize for my insensitive remarks re: the TdF crash. I recognize my comments were inappropriate given the serious nature of the crash.”
With good reason, Mr. Smith’s comments have angered the cycling community and sparked debate about whether or not he should be allowed to continue as a reporter at ESPN. For now, it seems that ESPN is happy to let this blow over.
I’ve never expected people outside of the cycling community to share my level of concern for a safer, more pedal-friendly world. But when a major spokesperson for a major sports network can get away with these types of comments, it feels like a setback. Whether this is a simple one-time lack of class and tact or a sobering look into the mindset of some of the drivers we share the road with, Mr. Smith’s Twitter dialogue will have me looking over my shoulder a lot more this summer when I ride.
What do GearJunkie readers think? Is this a one-time mistake that should be pardoned, or a serious blunder that merits action from ESPN? A legitimate exercise of freedom of speech, or an ugly act of prejudice by an apparently biker-hating media figure?