ESPN employees met for a company-wide meeting Wednesday, at the network’s Bristol, Connecticut, headquarters.
One of the primary purposes of the meeting, was to remind employees of the rules against overtly biased social media posts.
More than 450 employees attended the mandatory meeting, according to reports.
As the meeting began, network President John Skipper told the assembled employees, “At the end of this meeting I want you to be confident about the future of ESPN.”
Skipper added, “I want to lead an ESPN that strives purposely and confidently into a new world which is not scary but exciting.”
While the meeting also informed employees about the company’s strategies for the years ahead, especially where it concerns its many broadcast rights negotiations, a featured purpose for the gathering was to urge employees to stop posting politically charged entries on social media.
Editor-in-Chief Kevin Merida of The Undefeated came to the stage to review the network’s social media policy and reiterated that on-air personalities should steer clear of politics.
“ESPN is a journalistic organization – not a political organization. We should do nothing to undermine that position,” Merida said. “ESPN’s focus is sports. By-and-large we are not experts on politics, healthcare policies, terrorism, commerce – that’s not what we do.
“Our audience is not looking for our opinions on the general news of the day,” Merida added. “And believe me, I get it. It can sometimes be difficult to control impulses or ignore trolls, but that’s what we’re called to do for each other.”
Later, Skipper seemed to warn employees that future violations of the rule will be treated far more harshly than they have been in the recent past. “We will take swift and decisive action on things that do not conform with our values,” Skipper said.
The meeting comes on the heels of several highly publicized incidents of ESPN’s on-air personalities thumbing their nose at the company’s rule to avoid indulging in partisan politics.
Only months ago, ESPN host Jemele Hill ignored the company’s social media rules two times in a matter of only a few weeks. Early in September, Hill jumped to Twitter and called President Donald Trump a “white supremacist.” The post earned her some criticism but no action at all by her employers despite that it broke company rules.
Not only did Hill receive no punishment from ESPN management for breaking the social media bias policy, the Disney CEO Bob Iger personally intervened to make sure she Hill was treated leniently.
However, a few weeks later, Hill posted a series of tweets essentially calling for a boycott of ESPN’s advertisers to facilitate more NFL national anthem protests.
For the second violation, ESPN gave Hill a short two-week suspension.
Tellingly, compared to how the network treated some conservative employees over the last year or so, Hill was given but a slap on the wrist.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.