An awkward on-air moment that ESPN initially claimed was just play-acting may have caused a real-life rift between two of the sports channel’s commentators that played out (where else?) on social media.
Peter Burns and retired National Football League star Benjamin Watson were part of a panel on Saturday during a half-time segment of ESPN’s Southeast Conference college football coverage.
In what was supposed to be a light-hearted moment, Burns quipped that the “memo-missing” Watson, who was wearing a light blue suit supposedly more in keeping with an “Easter Service” may have committed a wardrobe malfunction because Burns, Chris Doering, and NFL vet Takeo Spikes were all decked out in dark colors.
“As long as I get a text from my wife that says I look good. Send me the text, baby. Send me the text,” Watson responded playfully.
This prompted Burns to chime in with “That’s not the one she sent me,” which led to guffaws around the table.
Watch the clip embedded below that millions have viewed and draw your own conclusions:
When the show on the self-described Worldwide Leader in Sports network returned from a commercial, tension seemed to be in the air, however. Burns was gone from the set, and Watson, who may not have seen the humor in the situation, was late arriving.
“Just you and I here, Takeo, not sure what happened to Peter Burns,” Doering said at first.
As Ben Watson was sitting down, he asked the Super Bowl winner “Did you have him keep your wife’s name out of his mouth?” A dour Watson just responded with a “huh?”
This is entirely speculation, but Doering could have been alluding to the language used by Will Smith at the Oscars in the infamous slapping incident.
“We’ll see how Peter Burns is with that smart mouth in the second half,” Doering irreverently added, as Sparks laughed.
On Saturday evening, an ESPN executive reportedly told Outkick that the “Entire thing was a performance bit. Benjamin 100% deserves an Emmy nomination…”
Outkick founder Clay Travis was skeptical.
“ESPN is 100% lying about this being a planned bit. Ben Watson was legit pissed about a relatively minor joke here from Peter Burns. Watch for yourselves. No one gains if this is a stunt. And Watson’s Tweet shows how pissed he was,” he wrote on social media.
ESPN is 100% lying about this being a planned bit. Ben Watson was legit pissed about a relatively minor joke here from Peter Burns. Watch for yourselves. No one gains if this is a stunt. And Watson’s Tweet shows how pissed he was: pic.twitter.com/Zyr5NQtKnt
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) November 20, 2022
At the time, Outkick writer Anthony Farris opined that “Clay’s right. Why would the worldwide leader in liberalism script a joke wrapped in sexual innuendo about a man’s wife?”
Travis may have been referring to the sharing of a Watson-Burns selfie, and noted the difference in demeanors between the two broadcasters, in which the former said “Moving on. But you still owe Mrs. Watson a public apology.”
Moving on. But you still owe Mrs Watson a public apology. https://t.co/nNASqU5A6P
— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) November 20, 2022
As you can imagine, lots of Twitter users weighed in on both sides.
Perhaps after receiving a phone call from a higher-up at the Disney-owned company, however, Burns did indeed publicly apologize to the couple in a tweet sent out on Monday evening,
“While it was [a] joke, the truth is that I crossed the line, you should never joke about family so that I owe a public apology to Ben & Kirsten [Watson] 100%. [Benjamin Watson] couldn’t have handled it better with his humor and class. We all good & proud to call him a friend & coworker.”
While it was an joke, the truth is that I crossed the line, you should never joke about family so that I owe a public apology to Ben & Kirsten 100%.@BenjaminSWatson couldn’t have handled it better with his humor and class.
We all good & proud to call him a friend & coworker https://t.co/dPw7VdPcaX
— Peter Burns (@PeterBurnsESPN) November 22, 2022
Ben Watson accepted the apology and has seemingly put the incident in the rear-view mirror.
Apology accepted. We are moving on. See you Saturday man. We have some big games to discuss! https://t.co/KbdtQANpv7
— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) November 22, 2022
His “shake my head” response to actress Holly Robinson Peete, who is married to ex-NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, however, might suggest that things are not entirely all good.
That part smh.
— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) November 22, 2022
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