Go ahead, spew the venom.
Be holier than thou.
Indeed, do all that, if you wish. After all, seemingly everybody else is, so why not join the crowd and take Tony Grossi to task – beat the daylights out of him verbally – after the longtime Cleveland Browns beat reporter, while speaking into a live microphone, used an obscenity and then a slur for a certain group of people to describe Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield recently while covering the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis?
Grossi was immediately and indefinitely suspended by his employer, Good Karma Brands, which owns the Cleveland radio station for which he works, WKNR (850 AM), along with its website, ESPNCleveland.com.
And that is as it should be. That kind of thing is as wrong as it can possibly be – on a number of fronts – and absolutely can’t be tolerated. It is egregious in every sense of the word.
Nobody knows that better now than Grossi. Of that I can assure you. I can vouch for him being a good guy from working with him for years, and sitting directly in front of him in the media room at Browns headquarters in Berea, while covering the Browns. That comment is not who he is, but because he said it, it is without question who he has become in the eyes of many people who don’t know him.
That’s unfortunate for everybody involved, especially for Grossi, who has hurt himself immensely not just personally, but also professionally. A reporter’s most trusted asset is his objectivity, and now, at least in perception, Grossi has lost that regarding Mayfield, the most important player on the Browns. To cover the team with any degree of effectiveness, Grossi needs to have a trusting relationship with Mayfield, and it’s hard to understand how that can happen again – how that can be repaired -- anytime soon.
OK, enough of that.
The bigger-picture view of that incident – and also the one that came to light just a day after the Grossi incident when ABC News suspended correspondent David Wright after a secret recording showed him criticizing the network and calling himself a socialist, along with all the other such well-publicized incidents like that down through the years – is that we’ve all done what those two men, and other people, have done. We’ve all done and said things privately and even possibly publicly as well that we regret, perhaps even incredibly so. We’ve all chosen to wade through that personal sewer.
To fail to admit that is not being honest.
But we may have gotten away with it in a sense because we aren’t a public figure, or at least weren’t at that time.
Grossi and Wright weren’t so lucky because, in being members of the media, they are, like it not, fair or not, public figures. They are in the public spotlight. And as such, what they say and do matters. It is constantly scrutinized. There is no room for error.
Words mean things, and they mean so much more – positively and negatively – when they come from public figures.
The lesson from all of this for all of us – whether we’re in the public eye or not, and regardless of our gender, age, heritage, background and whatever other descriptive categories into which we fit – is that we always have to stop and think about what we’re going to say, how it may be perceived by others and how it may affect others. And if it’s not true, fair, kind, respectful, positive and responsible, perhaps we should not utter it.
Like the adage goes, sometimes it’s much more important – and a whole lot less impactful on our lives -- what we don’t say, than what we do.