ESPN has apologized for and stopped running an ad promoting its NBA coverage that some found homophobic (see background story here), and that GLAAD lobbied against. Ted Rybka at GLAAD sent us the network's apology.
We have dozens of executions of the "NBA on ESPN RV Tour" online campaign and none are intended to be offensive to anyone or any community of people. Our intent is to send a positive message about the camaraderie of sports and to do so as creatively as we can. However, we understand your perspective on this ad and would like to apologize to the members of the gay community. In addition, we have decided to remove the ad from the campaign's online executions.
ESPN has a long-standing tradition of supporting diversity in the workplace and beyond. We are fully committed to continuing a dialogue that welcomes and recognizes diverse perspectives.
We appreciate your bringing your concerns to our attention.
ESPN is rightly playing it safe here. I found the ad really weird and problematic, mainly for Shaquille O'Neal's reaction to Mike Breen asking for the "fist kiss." Shaq's revulsion at Breen went on too long, which is why I can see the point of those who found it homophobic. It didn't bother me a great deal, but this stuff is all in the eye of the watcher, so kudos to ESPN for being sensitive. On other levels, the ad didn't work, so the network simply cut its losses. It's not like they don't have many others in that promotional series to choose from.
ESPN has been very gay friendly over the years. Both Cyd and I have appeared on the network as spokesmen for Outsports and have also been consulted when the network was producing stories with a gay angle. They get it.