As the media establishment continues to mull the many reasons for ESPN’s recent mass layoffs, even the “paper of record,” The New York Times, is noting that the cable sports network has lost fans over the constant drumbeat of left-wing politics in its sports coverage.
Times sports writer Marc Tracy published a May 1 article pointing out that fans and members of the media — both liberal and conservative — have remarked on the matter. Though many have debated the causes of ESPN’s layoffs and maybe even its pending demise, they have accepted the charge that the constant infusion of liberal politics into its coverage is definitely one of the network’s problem spots.
Tracy, who has covered sports for the Times since 2014, wrote that the reaction to ESPN’s layoffs “included jeers at the network for what some viewers perceived as a leftward slant in ESPN’s coverage.”
While correctly noting that politics has intruded into sports for decades — Tracy cites such players as Jackie Robinson and Billie Jean King as examples — he went on to say that fans have detected “viewpoints from mainstream sports broadcasters” instead of just from players as in years past. Tracy writes, “In some cases, ESPN has been accused of putting a thumb on the scale of social debates that are not settled. A galvanizing incident for critics was Caitlyn Jenner’s winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs, ESPN’s annual award show, in 2015, after Ms. Jenner, an Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, came out as transgender.”
Tracy points out that many fans saw nothing but politics in ESPN’s decision to give Jenner an award, despite the fact that the former Olympian had been out of the sports scene for decades. It was all based on ESPN’s liberal ideology and its desire to push the transgender topic, Tracy says.
"ESPN made the mistake of trying to make liberal social media losers happy & as a result lost millions of viewers." https://t.co/ERv82cGfxi
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) April 26, 2017
The Times sportsman notes that a large number of commentators have pegged ESPN’s troubles to its leftward tilt, even citing, as Breitbart News has, last year’s article where ESPN Ombudsman Jim Brady felt pressured to address the network’s liberal bias. Naturally, Brady ultimately concluded that there is no liberal bias at ESPN, but the piece hardly satisfied anyone.
Tracy couldn’t fully accept the conservative charge that ESPN has become too liberal, of course. He is writing for the Times, after all. But, if even The New York Times is forced to chronicle the accusations that the sports cable network has alienated fans with a constant stream of liberal bias, one has to understand that it really is a problem.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.