Bruce Feldman wasn't suspended. Or maybe he was. None of us know for sure, and it will probably stay that way, with one side steadfast in the assertion ESPN put him on the sidelines and ESPN steadfast in the assertion it didn't. And at this point, the argument has devolved into a debate about semantics, triggered by an oddly-worded press release from the WorldWide Leader.
Read the press release again, noting it says Feldman was never suspended, but will now resume his normal duties. Call it what you want, but throwing in a line about him resuming his duties clearly implies some kind of suspension -- pressing the pause button, if you will.
This is what Chris LaPlaca had to say in response to the uproar. Mind you, this was after he blamed Twitter for spreading false news about Feldman's status.
That's spin from a public relations man, and it's also incorrect. To the dictionary, which is important in any semantics argument.
v. sus·pend·ed, sus·pend·ing, sus·pends
1. To bar for a period from a privilege, office, or position, usually as a punishment: suspend a student from school.
2. To cause to stop for a period; interrupt: suspended the trial.
1. To cease for a period; delay.
Taking a timeout is, in fact, suspending the game for a short period of time.
To borrow a better sports analogy, "suspended pending the results of an investigation." We see this all the time, especially in college football, Feldman's realm of expertise. A player does something stupid, breaks a rule or gets arrested and is suspended until his boss, the head coach, can figure out what happened.
Feldman did none of these things, but it would seem ESPN wanted to figure out what it had on its hands with the impending release of Mike Leach's book. Network executives hit the pause button, called a timeout or suspended him; whatever you want to call it. A mass uproar forced ESPN's hands,and Feldman was back in action, with the network whistling innocently and acting as if nothing happened.
Whatever happened here is almost insignificant at this point. The dialogue was about much more than Feldman or his suspension, and there's no erasing the black mark whatever ESPN wants to call this move left. Because of the perfect storm -- the SI profile on Leach, the release of the book, the lawsuit, everything -- ESPN put itself in a losing position by investigating Feldman's pre-approved involvement in the book. It appeared petty, controlling and downright wrong.
The semantics don't matter here and by arguing about them, we're ignoring the real, underlying issues in the situation. Denial was not the public relations strategy; distraction was the motive of the statement. The point was to create misdirection: If people are talking about whether Feldman was suspended, they're not talking about the questionable decisions made in this entire ESPN vs. Mike Leach saga.
Call it what you want to call it, but the perception is already out there in the open, allowed to fester thanks to almost a day of silence from ESPN. This whole situation was bungled in the worst way by ESPN, and it sparked a discussion about the journalist standards at the WorldWide Leader. Somewhere last night, Mike Leach was laughing maniacally, looking like a genius in a room full of fools.