One would have thought, given the growing evidence of a conservative/Republican tune-out of ESPN over their rampant leftist activism, that the network might have wanted to tone things down politically when picking their new, post-layoff lineup.
Instead, on Tuesday, ESPN shot the proverbial bird at America by putting together a lineup featuring all of their usual liberal suspects.
With one possible exception, there’s no show on this docket that won’t immediately induce nausea. Let’s start at the top:
“Mike Greenberg Show” M-F, 7-10 am EST (There is a re-air of the Scott Van Pelt late night SportsCenter that airs from 6-7 am. But, for the purposes of this breakdown, we’ll deal with live programming only)
This is the one show that might not induce nausea. Not because Greenberg is some great friend of the right, or because I think that he’s the greatest sportscaster ever. Though, I think he’s good.
But, Greenberg has at least spoken of sports as a unifying and not a dividing force. He was also one of, if not the only member of ESPN to point out that the Arizona Religious Freedom Act was not a ban on gays. Granted, that’s not much. But hey, it’s ESPN.
“First Take” M-F, 10-noon EST
This show pretty much personifies everything awful about the current state of sports television programming, from the incandescently hot takes in response to highly trivial sports topics, to massive anti-Trump, social justice fear-mongering. In recent months, First Take co-host Stephen A. Smith has blasted white people for deigning to tell “black people how to feel” about their plight, especially when “(white people) are the one who stirred that level of frustration.”
Smith also railed against Tony Romo’s “white privilege” when the former Dallas QB was honored at a Dallas Mavericks game, claiming that more successful black quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb never got such treatment. And just this week, Smith referred to President Trump as “petty,” and not “acting like a grownup.”
An especially rich critique coming from a man who makes his living screaming and gesticulating at a camera for two hours a day.
“Bomani and Pablo” M-F, Noon-1 EST
The major consolation here is that this show only lasts one hour. During the ESPN layoffs, when many on the right hoped that the network would use that opportunity to shed some of its leftist talent, Bomani Jones and Pablo S. Torre were precisely the types of personalities they wanted let go.
Bomani Jones made his name by attacking the Duke Lacrosse players, even after the world knew of their innocence. Since then, he’s continued on a nearly unrivaled streak of race-mongering. Jones famously wore a “Caucasians” shirt on television while decrying the use of Native American mascots.
In January of 2016, Jones opined that much of the criticism of Cam Newton was due to the “simple reality” that America “does not like black people very much.” Jones also went after Albert Breer on Twitter for merely wanting to see proof that Baltimore Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones had been racially heckled at Fenway Park. Jones also lamented that Tim Tebow’s success made him “hate coming to work.”
For his part, Pablo S. Torre attempted to redefine masculinity in his end of year “parting shot” on the Sports Reporters, claiming that gay players outing themselves called for a reevaluation of what being a “real man” is all about. Torre tweeted that he was close to vomiting upon hearing the suggestion that President Trump was setting up an office to publicize crimes by immigrants.
This move, putting Torre and Jones together in the middle of the day, signifies more than anything that ESPN just doesn’t care at all how many conservatives and Republicans stop watching their network. In fact, more than anything else, this move may signify that ESPN doesn’t want any conservatives or Republicans watching their network.
“Outside the Lines” M-F, 1-1:30 EST
Not much to say here. This show represents ESPN’s attempt at serious journalism. All you need to know about Bob Ley and Jeremy Schaap, the two primary hosts for OTL, is that neither one of them thinks there’s any data to suggest ESPN’s politics have hurt their ratings. Which, since there actually is evidence of that, means that neither of them is very good at journalism.
“The Jump” M-F, 3-3:30 EST (NFL Live does air prior to this show, but, for our purposes, we’ll deal with personality-based shows)
Why a relatively little-known personality like Rachel Nichols gets her own show at ESPN remains a bit of a mystery, to me at least. But hey, she’s a woman, and she’s a reliable leftist, so perhaps it’s not that big of a mystery after all. Nichols most notably likened North Carolina’s HB2 law, that which states a person must use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex, to Jim Crow era segregation.
Nichols said, “…Discrimination is discrimination. It’s not okay to tell someone you’re not going to serve them in your restaurant because you don’t like their skin color. The same thing is not okay just because you don’t like who the person is holding hands with or what clothes or makeup they’re wearing.”
Yeah, I take it back. Nichols presence in this lineup is no mystery.
“Highly Questionable” M-F, 4:30-5:00 EST
Dan Le Batard hosts this show. The record is kind of mixed on Le Batard. Being of Cuban descent, Le Batard spoke out against President Obama during the reestablishment of relations with Cuba. However, he also called President Trump an “idiot” during the travel ban. So, you make sense of that.
“Around the Horn” M-F, 5:00-5:30 EST
What to say about Around the Horn? We’ll let it speak for itself.
This is the same show where panelist Kevin Blackistone ripped Michael Jordan for donating a million dollars to police organizations geared towards improving community relations. It was also on ATH where Blackistone said the national anthem should not get play prior to sporting events, because it’s a “war anthem.”
ATH has also been the scene of a fair amount of Redskins bashing. In November of 2015, panelist J.A. Adande said the Redskins nickname had “passed its expiration date.” And last June, Pablo Torre used his appearance on ATH to make the case that Babe Ruth’s career essentially needs an asterisk, because he played before blacks were allowed to compete in Major League Baseball.
Around the Horn might be ESPN’s most liberal show.
“Pardon the Interruption” M-F, 5:30-6:00
Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon host this show. All you really need to know here is that Tony Kornheiser once likened Tea Party Republicans to ISIS. And Wilbon, after misattributing a racist quote to Rush Limbaugh, then turned around and claimed Limbaugh had a history of “insults and race baiting” in his mind, crystallized when Limbaugh said he hoped President Obama would fail.
The pair were also frequent golf partners with President Obama during his presidency. That’s really all you need to know.
“SC6” M-F, 6:00-7:00
With most of the serious talent and programming cuts coming to the baseball side, among others, ESPN made their bed with the NBA and the urban demos. Therefore, a show featuring a black man and a black woman is important for ESPN. After all, if the network desires the urban demo, you had better score with a show that directly caters to that group.
Well, SC6 has failed to live up to those expectations. At least in terms of ratings.
However, SC6 hosts Michael Smith and Jemele Hill have not failed to live up to their political expectations. Smith called Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman “counterproductive” and “dead wrong” for suggesting that black-on-black violence is needed if “black lives matter.”
Despite serious evidence to the contrary, Smith claimed that Black Lives Matter was not “anti-police,” but “anti-police violence.” And, most recently, Smith claimed that every city in America was racist.
As for Hill, the pinned tweet on her timeline is two holiday pictures of her with Barack and Michelle Obama. Hill also once tweeted that, presumably, Republican efforts to make sure everyone gets to the right bathroom were so vile that they prevented us from being able to lecture Islam on gay issues.
She has also called on President Trump to denounce racist acts done in his name, which he had absolutely nothing to do with.
So, what to make of all this? With the exception of Mike Greenberg, and possibly Dan Le Batard, there’s no show in this lineup that doesn’t have a well-established track record of leftist activism. For ESPN to put forth such a lineup, in the wake of polling and scientific analysis showing that the network’s leftist politics are turning people off, one can only conclude that ESPN doesn’t care how many conservatives they lose.
They would rather lose them than change who they are.
This fact seems all the more believable when you consider that Disney CEO Bob Iger might be running for the Democratic nomination in 2020. In short, ESPN has abandoned the American sports fan and seeks to trade him in for something else: a sports fan who won’t let his sports get in the way of his rampant leftist activism. Someone who neither likes, nor seeks the escapism that sports used to provide to fans of all political parties.
ESPN has shown that they clearly no longer care how much money they lose, or how many people they have to lay off. They’ve become a giant political loss leader in the pursuit of the spread of liberal politics, and, potentially, the future presidential run of their current CEO.
No wonder MSNBC sponsors SportsCenter.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn