ESPN have taken the drastic step to cut ties with gambling expert Kelly Stewart only one month after hiring her for a new sports betting role. The move comes as historic homophobic slurs surfaced from Stewart’s Twitter account, from nine years ago.
ESPN wanted to capitalize on Stewart’s online popularity built through her “Kelly in Vegas” Twitter following. The online sports pundit was tipped to provide insight into the Daily Wager, as well as SportsCenter and the Daily Wager podcast.
Stewart Issues an Apology for ‘Unacceptable Language.’
Stewart issued a statement on Twitter, confirming that she had parted ways with ESPN, and apologizing over the “unacceptable and hurtful” language used nearly a decade ago.
Screenshots posted online showed four tweets from Stewart, responding to criticism from online trolls from March of 2012.
Stewart Cites Threats From Online Trolls
While apologizing for the use of her language, Stewart was quick to point out that she was responding to a continued cycle of ‘misogynistic attacks’ from online trolls.
“I responded to their threats of violence and sexist insults with the most powerful language I could think to use,” she said. “A decade later, I wish I hadn’t made the decision to respond to their vitriol with my own, but I cannot change my past.”
Controversial Firing Starts Conversation on Cancel Culture
ESPN’s decision to axe Stewart opened up the network to industry-wide criticism. While Stewart’s tweets did contain anti-gay slurs, industry pundits question the need to punish Stewart nearly a decade later for defending herself. Female journalists continue to face greater scrutiny and online harassment, while networks continue to struggle to support them. Stewart becomes the second high-profile casualty of ESPN’s strict social media policies. Former NBA analyst Paul Pierce was let go by the network over a video shared on social media.
Next Steps for Stewart
The Kanas City native won’t be short of industry offers over the coming months. Stewart has her own sports betting website, “Kelly in Vegas.” She also offers sports betting advice on Wager Talk, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and Bleacher Report.