Braylon Edwards can criticize Michigan, but not in the fashion that he did
I have no problem with an analyst being critical of any team, regardless of if he or she played for that team.
In fact, I respect someone who is able to critically break down their alma mater without a hint of bias. Some in college football do it well (Todd Blackledge) and others cannot (Mark May).
But critically analyzing a team is different than flipping the switch to fan and going off the top rope.
That’s what former Michigan star and current/suspended Big Ten Network analyst Braylon Edwards did on Saturday night while watching his Wolverines struggle against Notre Dame in the season opener. Edwards was suspended indefinitely by BTN after sending off this tweet (NSFW language):
That’s not analysis, which Edwards is paid to provide. That sounds like drunken, bitter fandom, and with some unsuitable language attached to it.
Calling out individual players can be done in the right context, even for a BTN analyst. While working for a conference network allows for different guidelines than say, someone working for an independent news outlet, it can still be done in a way that doesn’t sound like an attack.
If Edwards just tweeted “Ruiz is weak, Patterson is scared,” he’s probably not suspended right now. He perhaps releases an apology statement, but he’s not suspended. He was suspended for the language and for clearly letting a moment of frustration get the best of him.
Edwards got the memo from BTN that what he tweeted on Saturday night was not OK. His suspension and follow-up tweet came on Monday afternoon:
That type of analysis is actually OK. Those are facts with a big-picture perspective question attached to it. While that’s still on the critical side for a conference network analyst to tweet, it’s not crossing the line (I realize some Michigan fans would beg to differ).
Still, it felt like Edwards didn’t understand why as an analyst, he was being punished for providing his opinion on social media.
What he failed to understand was simple. There’s no chance that Edwards would get on BTN and say what he tweeted. BTN, which the conference has 49 percent ownership of, would not allow that on its airwaves. Television networks have social media policies in place because they realize that those are just extensions of their programming. Their analysts are still representing them when they fire off a tweet like what Edwards did late on Saturday night.
It was surprising that it took Edwards nearly 2 full days to come up with an apology for singling out Ruiz and Patterson:
I would like to address the tweet from this past Saturday. I should not have attacked Ruiz and Patterson that hard or period individually. I apologize as a former student athlete and NCAA analyst. With that being said UM football still needs to step up so no apologies there.
— Braylon Edwards (@OfficialBraylon) September 3, 2018
If Edwards wants to simply be a fan, he can quit his job and do that. He can tweet whatever he wants because it’s only his name and his brand that’s at stake. Former players being critical of their universities is nothing new. There’s no rule that states when a star college athlete leaves, he has to become a program apologist.
Michigan does need to step up. Edwards was right about that. The players that he called out would probably both agree that it wasn’t their best showing. For former players, fans and even college football fans in general, that was a frustrating Michigan performance given what we heard all offseason about the offensive potential.
But there’s a right way for an analyst to be critical and there’s a wrong way. Edwards picked the latter.
It could wind up costing Edwards his job, depending on the powers that be at BTN. They have their own brand to protect, and if they let their employees shoot from the hip on social media, it’ll take unnecessary hits.
This isn’t about restricting Second Amendment rights. It’s about being a professional in the workplace and understanding that there are certain things that one cannot do in Edwards’ position.
On Saturday night, he did one of them. If Edwards can’t understand that, perhaps he should find a new line of work.
Well, that might be out of his hands now.