Former ESPN Personalities Debate Whether the Network Was ‘Consumed with Politics’

ESPN
Getty Images/Mike Windle

A recent L.A. Times story in which the president of ESPN admitted that the network had become too political, set-off a Twitter debate between two former high-profile ESPN personalities.

On Monday, ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro admitted, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that ESPN viewers “do not want us to cover politics.”

When trying to explain how his network went from being the go-to place for sports news, analysis, and entertainment, to suddenly becoming MSNBC with highlight reels, Pitaro said:

“Without question our data tells us our fans do not want us to cover politics, ”Pitaro said. “My job is to provide clarity. I really believe that some of our talent was confused on what was expected of them. If you fast-forward to today, I don’t believe they are confused.”

How someone at a sports network could be confused about whether to cover the Cowboys or President Trump, will have to remain a mystery for now. However, at least for some former ESPN personalities, Pitaro’s statement about redirecting the network away from politics was welcome news.

On Tuesday, former SportsCenter anchor Jay Crawford tweeted:

However, not all former ESPN personalities were in agreement with Crawford. Former ESPN writer and Around the Horn regular J.A. Adande, seemed to challenge both the notion that ESPN’s ratings drop was severe, and that the network was consumed with politics. That led to an exchange between Crawford and Adande.

First of all, it is beyond rich that a former ESPN employee like Adande, is claiming that it’s hard to take a “supposed news story” seriously because hyperbole was used. ESPN pays Stephen A. Smith roughly ten million dollars a year for the sole purpose of saying crazy things.

Nor is it hyperbole to say that the ratings “fell off a cliff.” Yes, ESPN retained their monopoly as the #1 cable sports network based on a decades-long reputation of only reporting sports. However, considerable damage was done to that favored nation status once former ESPN President John Skipper — either overtly or covertly — gave the green light to radical leftists masquerading as sports commentators, such as Jemele Hill, to start infusing their politics into sports coverage.

Though, Adande makes another error in the analogy he uses when attempting to prove that ESPN was not “consumed with politics.”

Adande says, “Can you recall even a single day when the network was ‘consumed with politics’? Did I miss the First Take when Skip and Stephen A debated health care?”

Here, Adande confuses policy with politics. No, no one expects two people paid to say crazy things to come up with a course of principle or action. But one can certainly talk about politics, without coming up with an actual solution. In fact, that’s what congress does every day.

Adande, who is a journalism professor, is racing to close the barn door on a horse that’s already bolted. Not because he doesn’t realize that ESPN was biased, he likely does. But because he agreed with that bias and supports John Skipper’s vision of using sports platforms to advance a leftist agenda.

In short, it’s not that Adande doesn’t believe that ESPN was biased, he’s just sad that it’s over.

Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn

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