ESPN the Magazine college football writer Bruce Feldman has been suspended indefinitely by the World Wide Leader for contributing to Swing Your Sword, the new book by former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, who allegedly lost his job after incidents involving the son of ESPN college football analyst Craig James. Sports by Brooks has the behind-the-scenes machinations:

ESPN Vice President and Director of News Vince Doria, ESPN THE MAGAZINE Editor-in-Chief & ESPN Books Editorial Director Gary Hoenig, and ESPN.com Editor-in-Chief Pat Stiegman participated in the conference call and were behind the decision to punish Feldman. Doria, Hoenig and Stiegman informed Feldman today that he has been banned from writing for any ESPN entity, is forbidden from appearing on any ESPN platform, is not allowed to Tweet from his Twitter account nor participate in any promotion of a recently-released book in which Feldman played a role.

Multiple management and editorial sources at ESPN have told me in recent months that Feldman would only participate in the Leach book project upon direct approval from ESPN management – which Feldman indeed received. Since the book was released on Monday, Feldman has deliberately avoided any personal promotion or mention of the Leach book. (You will find no mention of the book on Feldman’s Twitter account and ESPN blog.) Despite those facts, Feldman was told by ESPN executives Doria, Hoenig and Stiegman today that he was being suspended indefinitely for his participation in the Leach book.

So ESPN has reportedly suspended Feldman for participating in the Leach book, even after it gave him permission to do so. Apparently Feldman didn’t receive the subliminal message about contributing to the book (but only in a way that reflects positively on ESPN).

The suspension of Feldman has been widely criticized by fellow journalists, and spawned the creation of the Twitter hash tag #freebruce. Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing summed up the feelings of many average viewers:

ESPN has tossed to the curb the writer that is being universally supported by every single college football and sports media writer that has a Twitter account. ESPN shouldn’t suspend Feldman, they should be thanking him and giving him his own half hour show on ESPN2 for bringing to light the sick things Craig James and his pathetic horde of vermin did in twisting the Mike Leach story. Instead, ESPN has done and said nothing about James’ hypocrisy, the conflict of interest of the network in errantly reporting the story, or anything relating to the sordid details surrounding Craig James and how ESPN initially handled the Leach story. All they’ve done is inspire thousands of fans to boycott ESPN in some way. Well played.