Jamie Horowitz and Dan Shulman
Typically, summer holidays are not the time for big news to be made in any industry, let alone the sports media business.
Yet, within the span of a few hours Monday, two seismic, but unrelated events made their own fireworks ahead of Tuesday’s fireworks.
Of the two, though the more recent announcement — the decision of ESPN announcer Dan Shulman to step down as play-by-play man on “Sunday Night Baseball” — will draw the most attention, the day’s earlier event – 21st Century Fox’s termination of Fox Sports National Networks president Jamie Horowitz – is the bigger bombshell.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Horowitz, who ran the company’s Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 channels, essentially spearheading the challenge to the ESPN family of networks, was abruptly and immediately dumped Monday morning.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Horowitz, 40, was let go amid an investigation of sexual harassment in Fox Sports’ Los Angeles offices. The newspaper reported that company officials interviewed several women at Fox Sports, including on-air talent and show producers.
Sports Illustrated reported that a woman who worked in production at Fox Sports told company human resources officials that Horowitz tried to kiss her at an offsite location last year.
“I have been working in sports for a long time, and no one has ever been that bold with me,” the unidentified woman told SI.
Fox Sports President Eric Shanks would not comment to media outlets about the nature of Horowitz’s termination.
However, in an e-mail to network employees, Shanks said “Everyone at FOX Sports, no matter what role we play, or what business, function or show we contribute to—should act with respect and adhere to professional conduct at all times. These values are non-negotiable.”
Horowitz also did not respond to requests for comments from media outlets.
However, his attorney, Patricia Glaser, issued a blistering response through an e-mail to media outlets. Glaser said “The way Jamie has been treated by Fox is appalling. At no point in his tenure was there any mention by his superiors or human resources of any misconduct, or an inability to adhere to professional conduct.”
“Jamie was hired by Fox to do a job that until today he was performing in exemplary fashion. Any slanderous accusations to the contrary will be vigorously defended.”
Though the accusations against Horowitz are the first to be leveled against a Fox Sports employee, they are just the latest in a series of come in a series of alleged instances of misconduct against prominent Fox employees.
Both Bill O’Reilly, who helmed “The O’Reilly Factor,” cable news most popular program, and Roger Ailes, who founded Fox News Channel, were driven from their posts following allegations of repeated instances of sexual harassment, though they each denied any wrongdoing.
Despite the denials, 21st Century Fox, the parent company for Fox News and Sports, paid out millions in settlements to women who said they were harassed by either O’Reilly or Ailes, who died in May.
Horowitz, meanwhile, has seen his star rise and fall dramatically over the last three years.
His career began at NBC Sports, but he moved to ESPN, where he rose through the ranks and developed “Sports Nation” and “Numbers Never Lie,” two important cogs in ESPN2’s afternoon lineup.
Horowitz was later placed in charge of “First Take,” and shepherded the pairing of Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless which proved to be ratings gold.
Horowitz left ESPN in 2014 to return to NBC, but this time as the executive in charge of “The Today Show.” However, he was fired after three months and before he even officially started, reportedly because he had difficulty getting along with others.
Horowitz was tapped to run Fox Sports’ cable operations in May 2015. He largely scrapped the news operations that had been in place for more opinion-driven shows. He lured Bayless away from ESPN and paired him with former Raven tight end Shannon Sharpe in a “First Take”-esque show that has struggled for ratings.
Just last week, Horowitz presided over the firing of 20 online writers and editors in an attempt to focus the channels’ focus towards its opinion-driven shows.
Meanwhile, Shulman’s departure, though equally shocking, comes for a completely different reason.
Shulman told SI.com that he is leaving Sunday Night Baseball because he wants to spend more time at home with his family. He said he is getting remarried next year and wants a schedule that would accommodate his new life
Shulman, 50, who replaced former Orioles announcer Jon Miller on “Sunday Night Baseball,” is one of ESPN’s most versatile announcers, serving as the lead play-by-play man on its college basketball telecasts. He will continue as the lead on ESPN Radio’s postseason baseball broadcasts.
Though the list of possible successors will be long, it is likely to start with Jon “Boog” Sciambi, who calls baseball for ESPN television and is the main voice of its ESPN Radio broadcasts of “Sunday Night Baseball.”