As expected ESPN — the sports network that drives the earnings of The Walt Disney Company — had a big presence at the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) convention that was held last week in Orlando.
But, according to several reports, that presence at a convention held in Disney’s backyard did not entirely generate the kind of publicity ESPN expected.
Big Lead Sports reported on Sunday that Michael Smith and former NFL defensive end Hugh Douglas — two of the hosts of ESPN’s Numbers Never Lie — nearly came to blows in the VIP section of the Sports Task Force scholarship party, which every year is one of the most anticipated social events of the convention. The party, held this year at the House of Blues, is a huge fund raiser.
New details of the altercation emerged from the website Ohio.com:
According to the source, (Douglas) behavior at best was “unprofessional” as he appeared to have too much to drink on more than one occasion.
On Thursday he took the microphone of of co-workers Smith and Hill who were trying to do an on-site podcast. The trio appear on Numbers Don’t Lie together. Friday during the day he interrupted Smith on more than one occasion as he offered advice to would-be journalists seeking his counsel.
“I’m trying to get lunch,” he apparently said to Smith.
Things only sunk to lower depths from there as at the V.I.P. party, an event where people donated as much as $750 to the Sports Task Force’s scholarship fund. The group comped Douglas the $100 ticket for the event and he offered a donation of fewer than $10.
Later in the evening House of Blues personnel had to prevent Douglas from going on stage to grab the microphone at the event. That’s when Smith stepped in to try to save his co-worker further embarrassment to no avail.
Douglas then proceeded to tell Smith: “I’ll (eff) you up,” several times according to the source.
Douglas then grabbed his arm as he tried to walk away and Smith turned looking to defend himself. No blows were exchanged and the incident ended.
Douglas was not on the set on Monday when “Numbers Never Lie” aired its first show since Friday’s incident.
UPDATE: The Big Lead is also reporting that racial slurs were used. Here’s what the story says:
Douglas, who appears on Numbers Never Lie on ESPN with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill, was trying to get on stage where the DJ was playing, and threatened to beat up Smith if he couldn’t help out. After the third threat, Smith tried to walk away, at which point Douglas grabbed Smith’s wrist and hurled two racial epithets at him, calling him an “Uncle Tom” and a “House N—-.” Smith, the witness says, turned around to protect himself, at which point onlookers rushed in to break it up.