Kelly Stewart, a former Kansas State student and Manhattan native, saw her career as a betting analyst with ESPN come to an end before it began on Friday.
Less than a month after ESPN announced that it was hiring Stewart to share her opinions on sports gambling shows such as “Daily Wager” and “SportsCenter,” the network has decided to part ways with her after discovering homophobic tweets that she sent and later deleted nearly a decade ago.
“ESPN has notified me that they terminated my contract due to deleted tweets from 2012,” Stewart wrote on social media. “I know the words I used are unacceptable and hurtful and I am terribly sorry for this lapse in judgment, but I cannot apologize for standing up to the vicious attacks I, and so many other female personalities, endure from anonymous online trolls.”
“While I regret the language I tweeted over a decade ago, I don’t regret standing up for myself against vile, threatening, and misogynistic attacks from men who were threatened by a woman daring to attempt to make a living in the overwhelmingly male sports gambling industry. I believed I had to stand up for myself in order to make it in this industry and I responded to their threats of violence and sexist insults with the most powerful language I could think to use. A decade later, I wish I hadn’t made the decision to respond to their vitriol with my own, but I cannot change my past.”
An ESPN spokesperson confirmed Stewart’s dismissal to the Wichita Eagle on Friday night, but then said “we are not commenting beyond that.”
Images of her deleted tweets that have since resurfaced online contained anti-gay slurs.
Stewart broke onto the sports betting scene over the last decade while living in Las Vegas. She has most recently been an analyst for Bleacher Report and for WagerTalk.com. She has also appeared across multiple other platforms over the years including ESPN Radio in Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
She graduated from K-State with a degree in business administration and a minor in leadership studies. Her love for K-State sports was obvious in her posts on social media and her video appearances.
At ESPN, she was supposed to appear on television, podcasts and radio shows. But that is no longer in the works.
She voiced some frustration with ESPN for not allowing her to fulfill her contract.
“I’m not proud of everything I’ve said in my life,” Stewart wrote, “but I’m a better person now than I was a decade ago. And I hope to be a better person than this, a decade from now. I don’t think anyone should be judged by their best or worst tweets and I’m disappointed that ESPN allowed the same misogynistic trolls harassing me online a decade ago to continue to impact my life a decade later.
“Women in sports have challenges online that men can only imagine, I wish ESPN had been willing to stand behind me, particularly because I’d already been suspended for these tweets by another company several years ago, but I cannot control their decision. I can only say I’m sorry for the person I was and some of the mistakes I made in my youth.”