Washington State University football coach Mike Leach caused a firestorm on social media this week. He tweeted out a doctored video of a speech by former president Barack Obama. His action and the response by the university are not sitting well with KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel. Art talked with KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick.
'Trying To Provoke'
Here is how Thiel described what Mike Leach did in a column for Sportspress Northwest:
"Leach picked a political fight on social media with the general public using a provably false premise, then failed to own up to his judgment errors of fact and conduct."
Last weekend, Leach tweeted out a four-year-old YouTube video of a speech then-President Obama gave to an annual conference of world business leaders in Brussels. But the video was manipulated to make his message the opposite of its intent.
Reaction to Leach's post was swift and fierce. Many people angrily responded that it was a fraudulent video. To which Leach replied, "Prove it." He later admitted the video was "incomplete."
"Clearly it had nothing to do with football. It had nothing to do with any current event. It was just him trying to provoke. Trying to troll," Thiel said.
"So the randomness of this really upset a lot of people. And he received a huge amount of criticism not only from followers online but also media outlets that picked up the tale and said, 'Why are you doing this?'"
"It made no sense whatsoever. Even though it's certainly part of the American tradition of free speech. He's entitled to say what he wants. But, to me, it was the kind of thing that detracts not only from Leach himself but from Washington State and college sports."
"I'm not saying that he isn't entitled to say it. And he didn't invoke the name of his good friend Donald Trump or any of his policies. It was just randomness that was destructive."
WSU Response Lacking
Thiel said WSU should have taken stronger action in response to the controversy.
"They've said very little and that's just about as bad as what Leach did," he said.
A WSU spokesman released a statement that read: “As a private citizen, Mike Leach is entitled to his personal opinions. Coach Leach’s political views do not necessarily reflect the views of Washington State University students, faculty and staff.”
Thiel said that statement speaks to the degree of intimidation Leach has over his employers.
"He deserves some sort of admonishment," Thiel said.
"I think the school should have said, 'This is not part of what we do. It reflects poorly on the school.'"
"I think they should've suspended him for a couple of weeks. It's not a fireable offense but it is something that, if they don't check him, he's going to keep doing it."