ESPN got itself in hot water on Wednesday when Josina Anderson reported that Michael Sam had not yet showered with teammates. “But another Rams defensive player told me that ‘Sam is respecting our space,'” said Anderson. “From his perspective, he seems to think that Michael Sam is waiting to kind of take a shower, so as not to make his teammates feel uncomfortable.”
Now, ESPN has apologized for the report itself. “ESPN regrets the manner in which we presented our report,” the network stated. “Clearly yesterday we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set in reporting on LGBT-related topics in sports.”
But what, exactly, was ESPN’s great failure? Anderson reported what she had been told by one of Sam’s teammates – and nobody seems to have a problem with the generalized ESPN months-long obsession with Sam’s sexuality.
Presumably, ESPN’s offense was to report on a controversy that it and the rest of the leftist media created: a faux controversy about sexuality in the locker room that few seem to care about. As Chris Long, defensive lineman for the Rams, tweeted, “Dear ESPN, Everyone but you is over it.”
But this is hardly the first time that ESPN has stepped on a politically correct landmine. In fact, as ESPN moves further and further to the left, it risks offending its erstwhile politically correct allies more and more often. Here are three other times that the network got unnecessarily political:
Jason Collins’ Homosexuality. In April 2013, reporter Chris Broussard made the ultimate mistake of citing Biblical morality in a discussion about the sexuality of then-unemployed NBA player Jason Collins. “If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, (but) adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals…I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ,” Broussard stated.
ESPN then announced that Broussard had crossed the network’s line: “We regret that a respectful discussion of personal viewpoints became a distraction from today’s news. ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins’ announcement.”
The only reason the issue was on the table in the first place was ESPN’s – and the left’s — myopic preoccupation with Jason Collins’ bedroom activities. When someone did not parrot the leftist line on homosexuality, that person had to be disowned.
Robert Griffin III’s Blackness. On ESPN2, the commentators decided to question the importance of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III’s race. That prompted commentator Rob Parker to say, “My question, which is just a straight, honest question, is he a brother or is he a cornball brother…He’s not really. Okay, he’s black, but he’s not really down with the cause…He’s kind of black, but He’s not really the guy you want to hang out with. He’s off to something else … We all know he has a white fiancee. People always talk about how he’s Republican. There’s no information at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper into why he has an issue.” He later apologized. He was then suspended for thirty days, and then let go from the network.
Ray Rice’s Domestic Violence. Why commentators on ESPN felt the need to discuss the morality of domestic violence – an act opposed by every civilized human being – is beyond reason. Nonetheless, Stephen A. Smith was asked for his opinion on Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice’s suspension for domestic violence allegations. “What I’ve tried to employ the female members of my family — some of who you all met and talked to and what have you — is that … let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions, because if I come — or somebody else come, whether it’s law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know — if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn’t negate the fact that they already put their hands on you,” said Smith.
This, of course, prompted rightful indignation. Smith later attempted to clarify: “But what about addressing women on how they can help prevent the obvious wrong being done upon them? In no way was I accusing women of being wrong.” Too little, too late. He was suspended from the network temporarily.
Smith wasn’t the only commentator suspended from the network based on Ray Rice discussion. Max Kellerman talked on air about domestic abuse – he said he slapped his girlfriend back after she slapped him – and was allegedly suspended.
That’s just from this year. ESPN constantly walks the line between generating controversy and shying away from it, as Rush Limbaugh found out long ago. And Bill Simmons. And Tony Kornheiser. And Jason Whitlock.
But it’s not just ESPN. Sports Illustrated has gone wildly political. So have the leagues themselves, inserting themselves into political issues ranging from immigration to racial conflict.
Sports used to be the last bastion of politics-free culture. No longer. And that’s a loss for Americans who would love a touch of unity in at least one area of life.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.