|Source: X Games on Facebook|
With the death of snowmobile rider Caleb Moore on Thursday after a jump went wrong at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Col., the action-sports event's founder, ESPN, will have some soul-searching to do.
As X Games athletes continually push the envelope—performing gravity-defying tricks and jumping higher and farther on bikes, skateboards, skis, snowboards and snowmobiles, the danger of injury and death rises.
That was tragically realized at this year's Aspen event. Not only did millions of people on TV witness Moore's horrifying tumble, but at least six other athletes were sent to the hospital, including Moore’s brother, Colten, a freestyle skier with a broken back and a snowboarder who flew off the edge of the halfpipe and into the crowd.
ESPN crafted a carefully worded statement in response to Moore's death: “As a result of this accident, we will conduct a thorough review of this discipline and adopt any appropriate changes to future X Games. For 18 years, we have worked closely on safety issues with athletes, course designers and other experts. Still, when the world’s best compete at the highest level in any sport, risks remain. Caleb was a four-time X Games medalist attempting a move he has landed several times previously.”
Meanwhile, major Winter X Games sponsors such as Casio, Jeep, Red Bull, the U.S. Navy and Verizon, have been largely silent since Moore's death. Red Bull, however, is used to action-sports mishaps, sponsoring hundreds of adventure-athletes throughout the world. In fact, Levi Levallee, who went on to win the snowmobile competition in which Moore crashed, is sponsored by Red Bull.
No doubt potential sponsors will think twice about getting involved in an event that may be getting out of control. This is a watershed moment for ESPN, which is taking the X Games franchise global in 2013.
A network that is known to push the envelope in the marketing of it's sports offerings may have to tone down its messaging around record-setting performances in the X Games, concentrating more on the well-being of the participants.
Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01