How Liberal Politics, Including Obamacare, Hurt ESPN

An Obamacare logo is shown on the door of the UniVista Insurance agency in Miami, Florida on January 10, 2017. As President-elect Donald Trump's administration prepares to take over Washington, they have made it clear that overturning and replacing the Affordable Care Act is a priority. / AFP / RHONA …

The fallout over ESPN’s wave of mass layoffs continues to reverberate across sports media, with many trying to assess just why it happened. There are a lot of reasons, granted, but liberal politics is most assuredly one of them.

For many years, fans who want the network to “stick to sports” have accused cable sports network ESPN of infusing left-wing politics into its sports coverage, and many feel that the loss of millions of subscribers is due to the network’s refusal to tell its on-air hosts and reporters to cool it on their blatant liberal bias. But, liberal politics has caused ESPN trouble in other ways, too.

In another article assessing the things that led to ESPN’s latest mass firing, E.J. Hill of notes that liberal politics in the form of government policy and regulation also hurt ESPN.

Aside from the arcane regulations of the cable TV industry, Hill notes that Obamacare had a major, negative impact on ESPN.

Hill reports that ESPN had changed its policy for employees when Obamacare became law. Obama’s health care takeover forced ESPN to turn away from its heavy use of freelancers.

After Obamacare was implemented, “the Obama administration put employers like ESPN with high numbers of 1099 workers… on notice,” Hill wrote. “Hire [employees] with benefits and withhold federal taxes, or face massive fines for the misclassification of workers.”

The new law forced ESPN into unwanted union contracts.

Consequently, ESPN hired just enough workers to keep them up and running and in return forced thousands of freelancers into NABET (National Association of Broadcast Engineers and Technicians) under that union’s work agreement with ABC. Not only would the network’s tax bill soar, but they also had to stem the pressure from the demands of Obamacare. Additionally, ESPN was forced to offer payments to the Entertainment Industry Flex Plan for each day worked by their newly unionized workforce. This raised ESPN’s labor costs tremendously.

Because of this, Hill said, ESPN ended up initiating mass firings in 2013, 2015, and just this month because the new Obamacare rules caused the network’s salary costs to explode. This meant sacrificing production aspects, which compromised the quality of the telecast.

Hill added that a changing TV landscape, such as increased competition and negotiations for payment, also hurt ESPN’s once lucrative business model. But, his point about how detrimental Obamacare has been for ESPN is not just a sports news problem, it is a problem hurting businesses all across the board and in every corner of the nation.

So, in the end, liberalism has been far more troublesome to ESPN than just as an irritant on the air. It has also hurt the network behind the scenes.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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