Behold, the power of social media: Roughly 20 hours after certain corners of Twitter began to simmer and then explode with outrage over the apparent suspension of ESPN reporter Bruce Feldman for anti-ESPN comments by former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach in a new memoir that Feldman wrote in Leach's voice — with ESPN's permission — ESPN has officially asked the crowd to disperse in a brief, three-sentence statement. Nothing to see here, folks:
"There was never any suspension or any other form of disciplinary action. We took the time to review [Feldman's] upcoming work assignments in light of the book to which he contributed and will manage any conflicts or other issues as needed. Bruce has resumed his assignments."
He has returned to his assignments, from which he … uh, never left. Move it along.
Friends of Feldman who rallied to his defense on Twitter under the #FreeBruce hashtag are taking a brief afternoon victory lap in honor of the power of social media, which spread the initial story so far, so fast that the bureaucratic machine at ESPN didn't even have time to announce it before it was forced into "spin" mode. ESPN execs would very sincerely like us to take the statement at face value, conclude that the "suspension" was never anything more than an irresponsible rumor run amok and throw the entire episode down the memory hole. Which, in all honesty, we probably will. But don't forget, either, that ESPN also turned down multiple requests for comment from high-profile college football reporters on Thursday night, and put the entire operation — including Feldman, an active tweeter — on lockdown about the meme for almost 24 hours. It doesn't take that long to clear up an irresponsible rumor.
But the end result is what the hash-tagging masses wanted: A well-liked, well-respected reporter is back on the job. The vigil is over. Now get back to work.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.