The questions have been asked, the results are in, and the verdict is…people really, really, don’t like ESPN.
In a survey of 1,363 current and former ESPN viewers, taken between March 7 and March 14, sports media analyst Jason Barrett asked for perspectives on the network’s political slant, in addition to thoughts on ESPN’s current programming and how those views have changed over time.
The results go a long way towards explaining why the network is folding faster than a prefab in a Category-5 hurricane.
When asked, “How would you describe ESPN’s political influence on its programs?” a whopping 60.8% of respondents referred to the network’s political influence as “left leaning.” Only 3% characterized the influence as “right leaning.”
When asked, “How do you feel about the current state of ESPN’s TV programs?” an incredible 97.2% of people said that they feel less enthusiastic about it, with a solid majority of 69.9% saying that they either “hate” the TV lineup and don’t watch anymore, or consider it “weak” and have lost interest.
In a part of the survey which sheds light on ESPN’s decision to layoff nearly 50 on-air personalities, respondents were asked which area of ESPN’s programming they valued the least. A full 63. 1% said they valued the debate shows least. Another 17.5% said they valued SportsCenter the least. That’s a combined 80.6% devaluing the two areas where nearly all of ESPN’s on-air talent spends their time. Not coincidentally, SportsCenter and the debate shows are also the two areas rumored to get hardest hit by ESPN’s impending layoffs.
Barrett concludes his survey results by saying, “Survey members who say they’re investing less time in the network’s programming attribute it to a Decrease In Content Quality and Talent, Better Choices Available via TV-Digital-Social, and Too Much Focus on Hot Take Shows with a Left Leaning Agenda and Less on Making Sports Fun and Neutral. Deflategate was another specific subject which turned off many fans.”
In his article on the results of Barrett’s survey, Alex Putterman of Awful Announcing absurdly claims that those who believe ESPN has become too liberal believe so, in part, because ESPN has allowed black people and women to speak their minds:
A lot of the “ESPN is too liberal” sentiment surely has to do with which voices the network chooses to amplify. ESPN has clearly made an effort in recent years to let women and people of color share their opinions outside of the Xs and Os studio show format. After years of ESPN personalities defending management and espousing personal responsibility (which are conservative perspectives, whether you think of them that way or not), the network is giving the Bomani Jones and Jemele Hills of the world a bigger platform, and not everyone is thrilled.
Whether intentional or not, this dismissive slight has the effect of smearing those who believe ESPN has become too liberal by labeling them as racists. If Bomani Jones and Jemele Hill were the only openly liberal agitators at ESPN, minority or otherwise, there’s no way you would get a poll with nearly 61% of people characterizing the network as too “left leaning.”
It also ignores the fact that when many conservatives mention sports media types with a strong liberal bias, the names that normally come up include personalities like Bob Costas (not black) and, when he was in sports, Keith Olbermann (still not black).
Nor did people just begin viewing ESPN as “too liberal” in relatively recent years, after the network began featuring more outspoken female and minority voices. In truth, many conservatives have long since felt abandoned by ESPN.
On the contrary, the bias at ESPN is organizational, systemic, and not based on individual personalities at all.
This is the same network that allowed the ESPYs to turn into an anti-Second Amendment infomercial, allowed their social media sites to be used as a platform for leftist activists at the Women’s March, declined to fire Tony Kornheiser for likening House Republicans to ISIS while at the same time firing Curt Schilling for a common sense message shared on Facebook, and forced Rush Limbaugh to resign for saying something about Donovan McNabb which even liberals acknowledged to be true.
There is a systemic bias here that runs a lot deeper and a lot higher up the food chain than Jemele Hill and Bomani Jones. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the leftist sports media would respond to the charge of liberal bias by calling people racists.
It’s pretty much all they do.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn