During a passionate two-hour ESPN college football conference call last month to discuss race following the death of George Floyd, there were riveting and emotional testimonials from on- and off-air people as hundreds listened.
About a half hour in, as ESPN’s Maria Taylor discussed the issue and her experience, a play-by-play man for the network, Dave LaMont could be heard in the background, apparently thinking his phone was on mute.
LaMont described the nature of the call on race as “venting,” which stunned those listening and immediately caused a rebuke from Taylor, who warned there could be ramifications if he did not stop.
He quickly did, but it might have cost him his job.
ESPN has explored letting LaMont go even after LaMont admitted the mistake immediately following the call to his bosses.
“A comment was made to my wife that was overheard on the college football call, offending some who heard it,” LaMont said in a statement to The Post. “We have a racially integrated home and I respect and admire those who spoke up about their experiences. I profusely apologize to everyone on the call”
Tedarrell Slaton, now a senior defensive lineman at Florida, who is black, lived with the LaMont family during Slaton’s high school years. The family did not formally adopt Slaton, but Slaton has honored them with a tattoo that reads, “Family shows no color.”
Lamont would not answer any questions, except to say he believed he still works for ESPN. However, ESPN vice president of communications Josh Krulewitz would not confirm that to be true even after repeated follow-ups.
“We took this matter very seriously, both in the moment and subsequently, and have addressed it appropriately,” ESPN said in a statement to The Post. “Consistent with policy, we have no plans to publicly share the specifics involving individual personnel matters.”
Sources said the matter had moved into the hands of the network’s human resources department.
For this article, The Post spoke to 10 people for the details of what happened, all of whom were either on the conference call or were briefed on it.
The 60-year-old LaMont has been with ESPN/ABC for 16 years, calling college football and basketball on TV and radio. He had been the network’s voice of the Pro Bowling Association when ESPN had the rights.
He is based in South Florida, where he has been a regular broadcast presence. At one time, he was the voice of Florida Atlantic University football.
On June 8, Lee Fitting, the senior vice president of ESPN, informed the hundreds of college football personnel who work for the network that there would be a conference call the following morning. The subject matter was left unsaid, but it was an all-hands invitation meaning there would be a vast amount of people on the line.
The two-hour call took place and there were stories shared about dealing with prejudice. Besides Taylor, former Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard, play-by-play man Mark Jones and analyst Rod Gilmore were among those who spoke.
When Taylor was making her points, LaMont unknowingly interrupted.
LaMont’s comment was brief and unintended for the call as he apparently thought his phone was on mute. When he described the conference call to his wife as “venting,” those listening said it was “uncomfortable,” “shocking” and “bad timing.”
The next day, Fitting sent an email thanking everyone for participating, but described the interruption of Taylor as “unacceptable.”
ESPN has deemed it was to the degree that it is unclear if Lamont still works at the company.
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