Friday afternoon, we accepted an invitation to MLB.com's offices in Manhattan for an interview with ... Harold Reynolds. This is the first SHOTY nominee we've interviewed — save for the imaginary conversations with Barbaro that go on in our head every day — and we talked for about an hour on a variety of topics, most of which involved ESPN and Reynolds' ongoing lawsuit against the company.
Reynolds couldn't get into detail on most aspects of the case, but he still had plenty to say. After the jump, dip inside the brain of the newest MLB.com employee. And we will say this: The man can hug.
Mr. Reynolds, we won't lie: We're pretty surprised to be talking to you right now.
Hey, you guys have been real good to me.
Really? We think we once called you "Handsy" Reynolds.
I've been called a lot worse.
We think that if your firing would have happened five years ago, you would have gone quietly into the night, ESPN would have just moved on and no one would have ever thought about it again. You'd have just been gone. But today, the way they're used to running their business doesn't work anymore. People hold them more accountable than they used to, and when they shroud something in mystery, people want to know what happened. The day after your firing, "Harold Reynolds" was the No. 1 most searched item on Technorati. No offense, but you're not Britney Spears. Were you surprised by the mass interest in what had happened to you?
First off, I'm glad I'm not Britney Spears. And certainly none of those searches were done by me. As for being surprised, yes and no. Yes, because to me, I'm just Harold. But no, because ESPN, it's a huge entity. It's a huge monster. The day I was let go, with nothing said, no comment but "he's just no longer with the network," that piqued a lot of curiosity. Because of that, people were trying to find out what was going on.
You did an interview with The New York Post the day after you were fired where you just sounded confused.
That was an ambush. I just answered the phone, and the guys says, "I hear it's sexual harassment." I was like, 'Excuse me, who is this?' I wasn't ready to do an interview; I was still trying to figure out what the heck's going on.
And at that point, you had no idea you'd been fired for sexual harassment?
I found out solely through newspapers and your site. They never specified this is what it is. In the vernacular of the paperwork, it's actually "Not Following The Direction Of Production." But they never said that publicly. They just let me hang out there and get slaughtered.
To this day, of all the people you worked for at ESPN, the people who fired you, you still haven't talked to any of them about why you were fired?
Nobody in upper management. I've talked very briefly with a few different people I used to work with. I've searched for information just like anybody else. I didn't know what was in the complaint. We sent the labor board to go get [my personnel file and complaint], and they were denied. The state attorney general subpoenaed ESPN, and they just didn't turn it over. Finally, we got in front of the judge, and the judge turned over the personnel file. And that was just May 18. May 18 was the first time I had ever seen my personnel file and what any of the complaints were against me. Through a court order.
Do you still talk with any of the guys from the show?
Kurkjian and Peter (Gammons) have called, and I speak with them a lot. Ravech has tried to contact me a couple of times. The main people I worked with were Peter, Karl, Krukie and occasionally Kurkjian, and everybody's contacted me except for Kruk. I'm not gonna sit here and slam him, though.
I think what has happened with most of the people at ESPN is, because of the lawsuit, a lot of people are afraid to get in touch with me. It's not that they don't like me. I understand.
You were there for a long time.
Eleven years. I knew everybody from the janitor to the president. I felt like that was home for me. I understand if people don't get back at you.
It was tough to leave, because I went across every portion of ESPN, with Little League, and College, and Major League Baseball. That means studio and remote side. I knew thousands of people. It's difficult not being in touch.
Was there a fear, once all this went down, that you'd never work again?
I had to think about it, before I filed the lawsuit, and I came to the point that I was like, "You know what? I'm just not working anymore." And that was fine with me. To me, it's always been about clearing my name. I don't, to this day, feel like I was fired properly. I was wrongfully terminated, it was rush to judgment, they did not do a proper investigation. Had they done this the right way, we would have never been in this situation. I stand by that. I built my life for 30 years as a professional, whether it's in baseball or broadcasting, and to have that torn down, in one statement, by one person, I wasn't gonna stand for. This was my only recourse. I wanted to meet, and I wanted to sit down, and I didn't get any answers.
We've seen the court papers of what has been filed against you, and, not to make you get into specifics, but when you look at what some other ESPN personalities have been accused of, or what they've even admitted to ... why you? If these were all just misunderstandings, they could have had stronger cases against other people, if they wanted to make an example out of someone.
I won't get into specifics, but when you look at some of the other stuff people have said about other people there, it's pretty obvious that this situation was not fair to me. I will say that. They can read between those lines as well as you can. That's one of the main reasons I think I've got such a strong case. I was not treated fairly in comparison to some of the other things that have gone on in that place.
Talk about the day all this went down. Was it just HR in the room with you? Oh, and by "HR," I mean "human relations," not, you know, you.
It was Norby Williamson, Marcia Keegan and Steve Anderson. That's who was in the room, and that's who fired me. They called me in, and told me I was fired.
After you were fired, did you look around for other jobs immediately?
I talked to just about everybody in the industry. The first people who came to the forefront were the Mariners; I've always got a job there. I met with everyone. And every single one of them was like, "Well, let's see what happens with this ESPN business first." That's another reason I'm so grateful for MLB.com, to step up and say, "we'll give you a job right now." They know interviews like this are gonna have to happen. But when I met with other executives at other networks, they'd always ask immediately about the ESPN thing. After I tell them what happened, they're like, "That's it?"
Have you ever talked to any of the women who made accusations against you since they made them?
No. These weren't relationships. They could stand in front of me right now, and I wouldn't know who they are.
Do you still watch "Baseball Tonight?"
A couple of times. But it's hard. I feel like I helped build that show. It's tough to turn it on and see the show and not see me on it.
Do you think, generally speaking, that ESPN is a difficult place for women to work?
Anytime you have women in a sports environment, it's going to be difficult to them. They're just outnumbered; they become a minority. I think you have to be extra respectful to them and their position. You have to be more sensitive to it, because you never know how people will react to something.
Did you ever have any sexual harassment training at ESPN?
Nope, never. They put out that there were concerns of five women with incidents of misconduct, but this isn't something that happened in one incident. I never had training, I was never asked to go to training, though I think everybody else in the building probably had it.
Everybody but you?
I'm sure I wouldn't slip through the cracks now, after me, but yeah: It was just never offered to me.
Do you think, generally speaking, that ESPN is too powerful?
They're a powerful entity, there's no doubt about that. But I couldn't worry about that. But I needed to file this suit to file my name. Whether it would have been ESPN or anybody else. It had to be done.
Before this whole business, we never got the impression that you were one of the least popular ESPN broadcasters; there wasn't a site called "Fire Harold Reynolds" or anything. People like Kruk and Berman get it a lot worse than you ever did.
Man, you guys just kill Chris. Leather? Is that what it is? You're with leather?
Something like that. We actually have no problem with leather. It's one of our favorite materials. Anyway, you'd never had that much negative about you in the media, and then, suddenly, everything in the media about you was negative. That must have been disconcerting.
The biggest eye opener for me was that I never had enemies. My whole life, I was the guy who loved everybody, hugged everybody, said hi to everybody. When something like this happens, they come out of the woodworks. I'm like, "Man, people hate me." That hurts, you know? That's probably the biggest shocker of it all. I really was naïve to that side of things.
Did people get quiet when you walked in the room?
Oh, yeah. I'd walk into restaurant, and my wife would always get the "Oh, poor girl" looks from everybody. That's hard. That's been the most difficult part of the whole thing was seeing my wife see all the hurt she had to go through. We're pretty upbeat people. To have night when you were crying and you don't have direction, it's real hard. But it's been good for us, it's forged our relationship closer. Hell, we'd just been married a couple of years. It was like, "Hello, marry me" and then BLAM. But we'll weather the storm. Forget jobs, forget if I'm gonna work again, forget about how people who don't know me perceive me. What matters is what's happening at home. I sat down with my wife, explained to her what was going on and she said, "Let's go forward with the lawsuit." She backed me up, no matter how darts were thrown our way.
Talk about this new MLB.com thing. Do you have a contact all set? Is part of this a deal with the new baseball network that's coming in a couple of years?
It's a two year contract, and, as for the baseball network, that's something that we'd all have to address down the line. They don't have it under the same umbrella. In my eyes, I see them co-existing, but it's up for MLB to set up the difference. I'll be on five days a week after the All-Star break, and then it'll be two days a week in the offseason. I'm not taking this job because I couldn't wait to work again; it's an unbelievable opportunity. The reach here is greater. I'm not Internet savvy, so it kind of blows me away what people can get to on the Web. In my heart of hearts, I love to teach baseball. If I can get in people's homes and teach the game, and educated people on it, this is where I need to be.
Do you still live in Connecticut?
Yep, in West Harford. I'll come into the city twice a week, and we'll have everything done that can be posted for the rest of the week. We want to be as current as possible.
Have you lost any friendships because of this whole thing?
Naw, people know me. People who have been around me have never wavered. They know that if I had done anything, I would have said so. The real people around me ... well, I don't want to get into anything too philosophical.
The Web doesn't handle philosophy well.
Exactly. I'll get killed when this runs.
So we were wondering if you would give us a hug.
I don't think my lawyers would like that too much.
We promise not to file a complaint.
Sorry. Probably not a good idea.