The first games of the college football playoffs were held on Sunday, December 29. Sadly, as Louisiana State University prepared to face off against Oklahoma State, tragedy struck.
A small plane flying in to watch the game crashed, killing five of its six passengers and critically wounding the sixth.
Tragically, among the casualties was Carly McCord, a 30-year-old sports reporter and daughter-in-law of LSU’s offensive coordinator, Steve Ensminger.
As the story broke live during pre-game coverage, ESPN announcer Matt Barrie addressed the situation in a way that garnered him widespread criticism on social media.
As the camera showed an image of Ensminger, who chose to stay and coach the Tigers to victory, Barrie referred to “the distraction of losing his daughter-in-law.”
"The distraction of losing his daughter-in-law"— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) December 28, 2019
I mean, holy shit. pic.twitter.com/crEUdsUjpV
Videos of Barrie’s comment quickly went viral, with many calling out his choice of words as inappropriate.
I know your job is to talk about the game but in moments like these is when your humanity should kick in. Death of his daughter in law is not “a distraction..”. Just say “Ensminger will be coaching with a heavy heart today..” Producers, help dude fix this. pic.twitter.com/F5Gq17WqhL— Annie Apple (@SurvivinAmerica) December 28, 2019
Let's not refer to an LSU assistant coach losing one of his children in a plane crash as a "distraction" from the football game at hand— Alex Kirshner (@alex_kirshner) December 28, 2019
“Try and put away the distraction of losing his daughter-in-law”?!? Jesus ESPN can we not categorize the loss of human life, especially one that’s family, as a “distraction”? Come on...— James Niemeyer (@jrniemeyer) December 28, 2019
No idea who this dude on the ESPN pregame show is but I think he just said “Put away the distraction of losing his daughter-in-law ...” I mean ... what the hell.— Adam Gretz (@AGretz) December 28, 2019
Others, however, defended Barrie, saying his improvised statement was understandable.
Everyone on Twitter needs to watch the Twilight Zone called "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street" and realize we are all being turned against each other. This man took time to offer his condolences to a coach and you have set a digital mob on him because of a word.— Brian (@BrianSmith975) December 29, 2019
Here comes the twitter police. Poor choice of words...sure. But everyone acting like they never f’d up before.— Yellow Snow (@OBsSteaks) December 28, 2019
This is a little to “woke” for my tastes. If you look at the word by itself yes maybe not the best choice but there was absolutely no ill intent in his statement. Let’s not pile on this guy but who am I kidding.— 🇺🇸 Tim H 🇺🇸 (@216_Born) December 28, 2019
Meanwhile, Barrie continued to receive backlash for trivializing McCord’s death.
It's amazing that people are defending Matt Barrie. He could have said "with a heavy heart" or anything like that. The distraction is the game not losing your daughter-in-law. People are putting the game ahead of human life when you call death a distraction from a football game.— Larry (Manny) Walker (@Manny_Insanity) December 29, 2019
So u think the lsu coach’s daughter in law’s plane crash is a “distraction”? Wow.. u might wanna clarify that statement— jason merims (@jasonmerims) December 28, 2019
I agree! To state the death of his daughter in law was “a distraction” was both unkind & disrespectful, at a minimum!— Bher5010 (@bher5010) December 29, 2019
There were definitely things Barrie could have said to avoid this online criticism.
@MattBarrie the deaths of five people, including an up and coming reporter who was a daughter in law as well as a wife should never be considered a “distraction.” That was awful announcing— george sanford (@georgetwn) December 29, 2019
So it’s a “Distraction” when your daughter in law dies????— robert s. (@robert_k_s) December 28, 2019
Barrie probably meant to show respect and likely wishes he could take back his words right now.
The words " distraction of losing your daughter in law " do sound absolutely horrible but I have to believe it was a quick, poor choice of words. I'm sure the gentleman would give anything to take it back or to have chosen different words. He's probably not happy about it.— Michael Hansford (@Hansford63M) December 29, 2019
I bet if he could take it back he would. Better choice of words might have been to "work thru this Tragedy." Live TV does not always allow time to wordsmith.— Jim Peake (@JimPeake) December 29, 2019
Bad take but sometimes people don't know what to say I doubt he meant anything but the best.— whatever (@thedenogginize) December 28, 2019
Condolences to McCord’s entire family, who are surely working through a very difficult time.