ESPN stalwart Bob Ley warned former ESPN President John Skipper that the network was drifting too far to the political left, a report says.
The Wall Street Journal recently posted a long story chronicling the internal debate among ESPN executives over whether or not the network has become too political. In one revelation it appears that Bob Ley was prescient enough to warn the network over its leftward drift even before the explosion over Jemele Hill’s comments.
As The Big Lead points out, the Journal’s May 24 story revealed this interesting tidbit:
But the amount and intensity of political expression generated sharp internal disagreements over whether ESPN was appropriately taking part in the broader national conversation, or whether top executives were encouraging a divisive company culture and giving too much leeway to hosts to promote left-leaning views, both on air and on social media.
Well before Ms. Hill’s tweet controversy, network icon Bob Ley had approached Mr. Skipper to say ‘there was a problem with balance internally,’ people familiar with the matter said. Reached for comment, Mr. Ley said Mr. Skipper ‘was always extremely receptive.’
Hill burst the discussion of ESPN’s liberalism wide open last September with her tweet claiming that President Donald Trump was a “white supremacist.”
ESPN bosses scolded her at the time for violating the network’s social media policies but did not hand her any material punishments. Unchastened, Hill continued her behavior until the network was obliged to give her a two-week suspension after she used her Twitter account to instruct people on how to boycott the Dallas Cowboys.
Even with the suspension, Hill has insisted that she has no regrets for her constant liberal outbursts.
Despite her recalcitrance, ESPN has kept Hill employed even as it has fired several conservative-leaning employees for expressing their political views. In 2016, for instance, conservatives such as former Chicago Bears great Mike Ditka was removed from ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown after he said that Barack Obama was the worst president in history.
Former Boston Red Sox star Curt Schilling was similarly dismissed by ESPN’s bosses after several conservative-minded posts to social media, the last one concerning the debate over transgenderism.
In any event, when looking back back at the explosion of controversy that ensued over Jemele Hill’s incendiary comments last fall, ESPN cannot say they weren’t warned.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.