An internal email was sent out to FOX Sports employees from FOX Sports President Eric Shanks. Shanks made it clear that Horowitz’s exit was not programming related. He specifically stated that every employee should act with respect and adhere to professional conduct at all times and those values are non-negotiable. He also added that he’d be taking over day to day operations for FS1 and FS2 until a successor is identified.
The wording of the email left many to assume that Horowitz hadn’t conducted himself properly. That has since been explored further by the Los Angeles Times. The newspaper reports that Horowitz’s dismissal was due to a sexual harassment probe.
FOX has already dealt with sexual harassment issues at FOX News. Given the company’s prior history, they chose to take abrupt action and remove Horowitz before a bigger firestorm arrived on their doorstep.
But it’s far from over.
Horowitz has retained high powered attorney Patty Glaser and plans to fight the allegations. In a statement Glaser said, “The way Jamie has been treated by Fox is appalling. At no point in his tenure was there any mention by his superiors or human resources of any misconduct or an inability to adhere to professional conduct. Jamie was hired by Fox to do a job, a job that until today he has performed in exemplary fashion. Any slanderous accusations to the contrary will be vigorously defended.”
Since he joined the network, Horowitz had been bullish on challenging ESPN. He handed out big contracts to Colin Cowherd and Skip Bayless, recruited other talented ESPN personalities such as Jason Whitlock, Doug Gottlieb, Cris Carter and Chris Broussard to join him, and has introduced the nation to new faces such as Nick Wright, Katie Nolan, Jason McIntyre and Joy Taylor.
FS1’s ratings have not been in the same ballpark as ESPN’s but given the enormous task of overtaking the worldwide leader in sports, it would’ve been foolish and unrealistic to expect the channel to quickly change the landscape.
Horowitz sent shockwaves throughout the industry last week when FOX Sports ditched its digital strategy in favor of a video distribution model. The change resulted in a number of staffers being let go and industry pundits questioning whether or not FOX was making a critical mistake.
What will be interesting going forward is if FOX stays committed to the vision Horowitz set in place or if they look to reverse course and pursue an alternative path. With Nick Wright and Cris Carter on their way to New York to launch a new morning show in September, Katie Nolan sitting on the sidelines awaiting word on what her new role will be, and others like Cowherd and Bayless being expensive acquisitions and huge supporters of Horowitz, the future at FOX Sports suddenly became very cloudy. For the sake of all involved, let’s hope better news is on the way soon.