In a matter of hours, two of the sports media world's most influential brands have sidelined executives amid allegations that each had helped foster a hostile workplace environment.
On Thursday afternoon, Major League Baseball acknowledged that it had forced out Bob Bowman, the longtime president and CEO of MLB Advanced Media, after what the Wall Street Journal characterized as "years of troubling workplace behavior." The league's admission runs counter to the original narrative, in which Bowman was said to have voluntarily resigned in early November.
The revelation of Bowman's firing comes on the heels of news that high-ranking NFL Media exec David Eaton had resigned Wednesday night after Deadspin published a story illustrating how he'd engaged in untold numbers of sexually explicit Twitter interactions with adult film stars and escorts.
Per Bowman's official story, on Nov. 6 the MLB said he would be stepping down at the end of 2017 upon the expiration of his contract with the league. But as the Journal reported earlier on Thursday, Bowman actually had been pushed out after his behavior made it inconceivable for the league to re-up the mastermind behind its incredibly lucrative digital-media unit.
Among the allegations levied against Bowman, the Journal reports, is an incident at July's MLB All-Star Game in which he is said to have shoved an executive affiliated with Boston Red Sox parent company Fenway Sports Group, as well as a litany of offenses ranging from propositioning female colleagues, dropping the "c"-bomb in the office and "cultivating a culture of partying and heavy drinking with employees."
The gist of the Journal report is that MLB had long been aware of Bowman's less-than-stellar behavior, but chose to overlook it given how much revenue he helped generate in his 17 years as the head of the Advanced Media unit (or BAM, as it's known in MLB circles). Case in point: Walt Disney Co. in August forked over $1.6 billion to assume a 75 percent stake in the BAM streaming-media spinoff BAMTech, bringing its total investment in the company to $2.6 billion.
At the time Bowman's faux-resignation was announced, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement in which he thanked the outgoing exec for his 17 years of service. "I understand Bob's desire to step away and respect his decision," Manfred said.
Bowman on Thursday issued a statement to the Journal in which he apologized for his behavior.
Among the internal candidates who would appear to be particulalry well positioned to lead BAM in 2018 and beyond is Tony Petitti, who last week was elevated to deputy commissioner of business and media at MLB, where he oversees marketing, broadcasting and media rights, MLB Network and digital content. Petitti was president of the MLB Network from its inception in 2008 until December 2014, when he was named the league's chief operating officer.
As for Eaton, per Deadspin, his Twitter account had long been the "subject of discussion among employees" at NFL Network, which is currently being investigated by league higher-ups for fostering a workplace environment that has been likened to a "frat house kegger."
Eaton, who served as vp and executive editor of NFL Media, oversaw news operations for NFL Network and NFL.com. His decision to leave the company coincides with a rash of suspensions of NFL Net on-air talent in the wake of multiple charges of sexual harassment and assault levied against analysts Marshall Faulk, Ike Taylor and Heath Evans.
The allegations against the NFL Net employees were made in a Dec. 11 court filing by a woman who had worked for 10 years as a wardrobe stylist at the network. The three aforementioned analysts were named in the lawsuit, as was former executive producer Eric Weinberger, who left NFL Net in late 2015 to serve as president of Bill Simmons' The Ringer. Weinberger was suspended indefinitely by Bill Simmons Media Group on Dec. 12.
Also named in the lawsuit is ex-NFL Net analyst Warren Sapp, who in February 2015 was fired from the channel after his arrest for soliciting a prostitute and committing assault the morning after Super Bowl XLIX. Joining Sapp on the defendant's bench are fellow former NFL Net analysts Donovan McNabb and Eric Davis, both of whom have been suspended by ESPN pending an investigation.
Speaking last week at the league's winter meetings summit in Dallas, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said an internal investigation into the goings-on at NFL Network was in the works. "Those are issues that are important to us," Goodell said. "We want to make sure that all of our employees, whether at the NFL Network or at the league office or at clubs, are working in a safe and comfortable environment. Any time that doesn't exist, we are going to make sure that we deal with that very quickly and very seriously."